Happy International Carl Sagan Day, peeps.
While watching Cosmos, I was fascinated by the history of the first astrophysicist, and the last scientific astrologer, one Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630), who beautifully figured out the laws governing the motions of the planets in improving on Copernicus’ ideas using his theoretical genius, and the observational data gathered by Tycho Brahe, at once his rival, patron, and collaborator.
Kepler lived in a dangerous time when astronomy and astrology were practiced as one, and the very time when the former escaped the confines of the latter as a science. Genius exists in all eras and peoples, and Kepler’s time was no exception.
Kepler was a theist, and his principle reason for involvement with science was to know God’s plans, to know His mind, and thus come closer to the divine so as to assure his salvation.
Regardless of his motives, or the assumptions going into them, Kepler did SCIENCE, and his work laid the foundations built upon by Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation.
Kepler was one of the luminaries who sparked the scientific revolution in the 17th century, so I thought I’d post this quote by him, also quoted by Carl Sagan in Cosmos:
We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.