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The extraordinary, unlikely tale of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler and their enormous contribution to astronomy and understanding of the cosmos is one of the strangest stories in the history of science.
Kepler was a poor, devoutly religious teacher with a genius for mathematics. Brahe was an arrogant, extravagant aristocrat who possessed the finest astronomical instruments and observations of the time, before the telescope. Both espoused theories that seem off-the-wall to modern minds, but their fateful meeting in Prague in 1600 was to change the future of science.
Set in one of the most turbulent and colourful eras in European history, when medieval was giving way to modern, Tycho and Kepler is a double biography of these two remarkable men.
The story of how Copernicus replaced the prevailing geocentric view of the universe with his heliocentric model is a familiar one. Less familiar are Tycho Brahe's contributions to astronomy and his influence on Johannes Kepler, who revolutionized 17th-century thinking about planetary movements. Science writer Ferguson's intellectual and cultural biography of these two seminal scientists provides a delightful, detailed look into the ways that each man developed his ideas about the universe. Brahe, a Danish nobleman, developed a variety of instruments for observing the heavens. In his observatory off the coast of Denmark, he built a magnificent armillary an instrument that allowed him to construct his theory that Venus and Mercury orbit the Sun while the Sun and the outer planets orbit the unmoving Earth. In 1600, Brahe took on a brilliant young student named Kepler, whom Brahe asked to carry on his own work after his death. Though indebted to Brahe for his instruments and his detailed charts of the stars, ultimately Kepler departed from Brahe's views, confirming instead Copernicus's theory that all the planets orbit the Sun. More famously, he discovered that the planets had elliptical rather than circular orbit. Ferguson (Measuring the Universe) paints her picture of Brahe and Kepler in broad strokes, placing them among the political intrigues of their times and the conflict between religion and science. Her biography offers glimpses of two men completely enamored of the beauty of the stars and planets and their attempts to describe the world through the eyes of this great love. 16 color and 30 b&w illus., 2 maps. Library of Science Book Club alternate selection.