Kepler-Museum in Weil der Stadt

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

This building is the theorical Kepler’s bithplace in Weil der Stadt which hosts a very small museum about Kepler’s life and work:

At the age of six Kepler attends the German school. Continuing with Latin school he has to interrupt his attendance several times to help his parents with their work in the fields and at their inn. As a result he requires five years to complete the usual three school years.

The sickly child shows more enthusiasm at school than for hard work in the fields. His parents decide to send him to monastery school: First to the Adelberg monastery school (lower seminary) and then to Maulbronn (higher seminary).

His school comrades and teachers give him a hard time: At an early stage he starts to have his own ideas of church doctrine. His main struggle is with the meaning of Predestination and Communion.

Two celestial phenomena arouse his interest in astronomy: His mother shows him a comet, his father a lunar eclipse. Both phenomena remain in his mind for a long time. On the other hand, he never mentions his astronomy lessons in his written work.

Furthermore…

During the Age of Reformation the University of Tübingen, founded in 1477, forms the intellectual centre for Southern German Lutheran and for the Duchy of Württemberg. In 1536, Duke Ulrich orders the accomodation of poor students in Tübingen’s Stift. His aim is to ensure more graduates for loyal service in church and administration.

Coming from a humble background, Kepler wins a scholarship at the Stift. In 1589, he takes up his studies at the Faculty of Arts providing a general education, where the talented student receives many important stimuli. In particular, he studies the works of the Neoplatonists, whose ideas of a harmonically built creation make a deep impact on him.

However, his Professor of astronomy, Mästlin, influences him the most. Like a fatherly friend he familiarizes him with the ideas of Copernicus. Kepler sees an analogy in the central position of the sun to God’s omnipotence and consequently becomes a convinced advocate of the heliocentric view.

Kepler passes the baccalaureat exam at the Faculty of Arts as the second best in his class. […]. Before graduating, he accepts the position as provincial mathematician in Graz.

These were the first steps in Kepler’s life and the first thing that you see after entering the museum is the bust of this great mind:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Since 1594, as a provincial mathematician in Graz, Kepler…

[…] has to teach at the Lutheran seminary and write astrological calendars. His enthusiasm for astronomy inspires him to do his own research, and in 1596 he publishes his first work on astronomy Mysterium Cosmographicum.

He attempts to prove that a harmonic creation allows for only six planets. He regards the five regular Platonic polyhedra as elements of the planetary system, which, nested in the proper order, should determine the planet’s distance to the sun. As this approximately corresponds with the Copernican planetary distances, the work catches the attention of such important astronomers as Galileo Galieli and Tycho Brahe.

In spite of his fame, Kepler has to worry about his position in Graz. The Counter-Reformation creates great tension between the Lutheran inhabitants and the Catholic authorities. To recommend himself to the archduke Kepler dedicates a treatise to him on the solar eclipse of July 10th, 1600.

However, this does not prevent his expulsion from Graz one month later.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

So these years in Graz were the period in which Kepler dreamt of his Mysterium cosmographicum and the possibility of the God’s design for the universe based in the regular polyhedra:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

After Graz, Kepler became Tycho Brahe’s assistnat in Prague. After Tycho’s death, he assumed his position as imperial mathematician for Emperor Rudolph II:

[…] The quality of the [astronomical] data depends on the exactness of the particular orbit theory. Since all tables used around 1600 are inaccurate, Emperor Rudolph commissions Brahe and Kepler with the creation of the Tabulae Rudolphinae in 1601. When Brahe dies in the same year Kepler has to continue the work on his own.

It takes 22 years to complete the final version of the tables. Alone, the development of the elliptical orbits takes Kepler eight years. When he hears about the development of Napier’s logarithm, he integrates this into his tables and manages to simplify the calculation of orbital positions […]

Kepler discovered his first law and published it in his Astronomia nova (1609) and ten years later, he publishes his Harmonice mundi with the second and the third laws. Furthermore, Kepler had also time to wpork on infinitesimal calculus to compute the volume of some tonnels of wine:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

I could follow explaining more things about Kepler’s life and works but this museum is very small so you must visit it. And Weil der Stadt is a very beautiful town!

Location: Kepler-Museum in Weil der Stadt (map)

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One response

  1. […] statue of Johannes Kepler is located in a garden next to Kepler’s museum in Weil der Stadt. It seems to be a private monument in a garden but it’s possible to go […]

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