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Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother
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Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother

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3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  228 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Set against the backdrop of the witchcraft trial of his mother, this fascinating biography of Johannes Kepler, "the Protestant Galileo" and 16th century mathematician and astronomer who discovered the three basic laws of planetary motion, reveals the surprisingly spiritual nature of the quest of early modern science.

In the style of Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, Connor's
...more
Hardcover
Published March 30th 2004 by HarperOne
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(showing 1-30 of 905)
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Ubiquitousbastard
The title is misleading. Hardly any of the monograph is concerned with his mother's trial and there is very little about witchcraft at all. Most of the book is concerned with minute accomplishments of Kepler and the kind of insignificant details of his personal life. I really don't care how many kids he had and when, and what their names were. Or worse, the twelve women he almost married are mentioned twice for some odd reason. Actually, there is quite a bit of repetition in this, with the same ...more
Dani Goodwin
Feb 24, 2012 Dani Goodwin rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
In the introduction of the book, the author, James Connor, says:
If I have any mea culpas to make in this book, one is this—I did not try to give an account, except as a sketch, of Kepler’s science.
Indeed, in this book, the information about the great scientific achievements of Johannes Kepler is scant. I believe that the majority of the people, who would be interested in reading about Kepler, are people with some level of interest in astronomy, mathematics, or science. If you are one of them,
...more
William  Shep
An odd book in some ways. Great topic about the great German astronmer's life and work and the turmoil of religious intolerance and ignorance that often inhibited his great work and hounded his poor mother to death. However, the book is not well integrated and often repetitive. Despite these problems it is well worth the reading.
Jake
Apr 25, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first introduction to Johannes Kepler came through Carl Sagan's television documentary Cosmos. Mr. Sagan presented Kepler as proverbial scientific hero--like Galileo, a man under intense pressure to recant or revise his work to satisfy prevailing worldviews of the day. Yet Kepler was also a devout Lutheran who stood up to the Counter-Reformation even as his own church dismissed him. Through this book, that sense of Kepler as a brave scientific pioneer was reinforced for me, and I gained new e ...more
Pacific
I completely enjoyed reading this book, even though it wasn't the easiest book to read. It take me over a year to read, since I would take breaks to read other books, but I am glad I finished it. The life and story of Kepler a dreamer, mathematician, stargazer, astrologer, devoted to his religion and science, father, and son of an accused witch. The inside scoop on being an emperor's mathematician, never knowing when you would get paid, moving his family from one place to another, his complete b ...more
Jessica
This was quite an interesting book. Kepler lived in an incredibly difficult time during the history of Europe, and he managed to accomplish great things. His mother was tried for witchcraft, he was persecuted for his religion, he suffered from depression, and several of his children died. I didn't know much about him, and this was a good read. It would have been better if I knew a bit more about European history, because I kept getting confused about who was who, and there were some descriptions ...more
Pamela
Johannes Kepler was a late 16th century astronomer, sometimes astrologist and dabbler in philosophy. He developed some of the first scientific principles of astronomy, discovered the elliptical orbit of planets and developed a series of laws of optics that were an important influence for Newton. He also wrote a theory about what he called an anima movens which led later to Newton's concept of gravity. He also had the misfortune of trying to do all of this in the middle of the Thirty Year's War a ...more
Victoria Leo
Jun 01, 2015 Victoria Leo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at an overlooked scientist

Kepler is not as well known as he ought to be and this fascinating bio is an attempt to remedy that oversight. Kepler wasn't just the genius who developed the laws of planetary motion, and m made big strides in optics and mathematics. This author shows how much of his drive to science was driven by his Lutheran faith. He was in awe of the universe as a divine creation, and yearned to understand nature because when you knew science and math, you grew c
...more
Maurice Arnall
Jan 28, 2016 Maurice Arnall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read for a biography. A man ahead of his time that I knew almost nothing about. So close to beating Newton to calculus and maybe even gravity. Enjoyed the science aspect, of course, but the philosophical aspect was a treat. A very deep religious thinker with a lot to say to us today. Drags in a few places, but certainly not a difficult read.

...geometry rules everything in the universe, regulating the motions of the stars and the planets, fixing the order of the universe on immutable laws,
...more
Valerie
Nov 18, 2008 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math, cypresslibrary
Places Kepler in context, while outlining his contributions to astronomy lots of interesting stuff about him and his patrons and mentors. Especially Brahe.
Amber
Dec 27, 2015 Amber rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-loan
This was a slow slog for me. I really had difficulty staying engaged in the book. That is not to say there wasn't a wealth of information in this, there was. There are many excerpts from Kepler's books and letters. It does paint a thorough picture of the scientist, but he doesn't come off a very likeable person. A person who might have been "book smart", but lacked common sense. Much of the book seemed to focus more on religion that science. Not surprising, I suppose, given the environment in Eu ...more
Ali Forman
Mar 14, 2013 Ali Forman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Takes a while to get into it, but it's a great book that illustrates the life and times of Johannes Kepler and how science and religion played big roles in his life.
It focuses throughout the book of his mother's witch trial and how it later affects him. It starts with his Lutheran background, schooling and that he was always anxious to learn. Later it shows his great faith in his God and how his science helps further that belief in God. His religious leaders don't like that to say the least and
...more
John Gribbin
Joint review

Heavenly Intrigue
By Joshua Gilder and Anne-Lee Gilder

Kepler’s Witch
By James A. Connor


One of the delights of reviewing is to have your expectations overturned. I was doubly lucky with these two books. When I first looked at them, I anticipated that Kepler’s Witch would be an intriguing account of one of the more obscure events in the life of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler, but that Heavenly Intrigue, which suggests that Kepler murdered his patron Tycho Brahe, would be the work o
...more
Elvira
Jan 07, 2010 Elvira rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I completely enjoyed reading this book, even though it wasn't the easiest book to read. It take me over a year to read, since I would take breaks to read other books, but I am glad I finished it. The life and story of Kepler a dreamer, mathematician, stargazer, astrologer, devoted to his religion and science, father, and son of an accused witch. The inside scoop on being an emperor's mathematician, never knowing when you would get paid, moving his family from one place to another, his complete b ...more
Tlaura
Nov 17, 2013 Tlaura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a poorly sourced hagiography with a, none-the-less, interesting point of view. Its shortcomings are frustrating: at one low point Connor quotes a passage from Harmonices Mundi, cites Max Caspar, but says Caspar gave no reference for the quote, the implication being that Connor wrote a biography of Kepler without reading what Kepler considered his magnum opus! (It's freely available in English translation on the internet, though to be fair this may not have been the case in 2004.) There i ...more
Andrea Patrick
This took me awhile to get through, because it was a little boring at times. I have Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations on my nightstand for nights when I can't fall asleep (it knocks me out everytime, eventually) and there were some nights that I was so apathetic about picking up this book that I longed to pick up Smith.

I have an Advanced Reader's Copy from way back when I used to work at a bookstore, and it's been sitting on my shelf for almost 15 years. Maybe the finished version would have been
...more
Sheref Younan
Dec 12, 2015 Sheref Younan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book, really readable and entertaining.

Those were troubling times, the heavens moved from earth-centric to sun-centric. Europe and the world also shifted and moved. Kepler was at the heart of all of that.
And the author writes it in a simple and fluid narrative, moving back and forth between astronomy, history and philosophy.
Sam Bennett
Jun 09, 2013 Sam Bennett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever wondered why there is always a clash between religion and science, this a great book to deepen understanding. Kepler was pre-Newton. According to this book, Kepler should be added to the triad of Galileo, Newton, Copernicus. He was right on the edge of Newwtons discoveries but at the time the math hasn't been fully created. In addition he lived at the dawn of the scientific revolution and the bEginning of the 30 yrs War in Europe. The book only deals with Kepler's science, which h ...more
Joy
Sep 12, 2014 Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kepler was a brilliant man. His mother probably also had a brilliant mind but was thwarted by a lack of education, by gender and class. This book presents a good picture of life in Europe during the 30 years war.
Paulo Girão
May 14, 2015 Paulo Girão rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Norwegian version.
Interesting biography of Kepler. The author preferred to focus on the historical context surrounding the life of Kepler, so sometimes one feels that his life is a secondary event in the narrative. Not that much about his science work, but we get a fair warning for that in the introductory chapter.
Linda
Sep 09, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Excellent book! It is full of research, knowledge, life in the 15th century, Kepler's life and accomplishments as well as the extent he went to in order to prove what he felt was accurate. His sacrifices, hardships and frustration at times are vivid and you can almost feel his pain. It is very detailed and at times was a little slow because of so much detail, but there is no part that could be omitted. The author did an excellent job of the flow of the narrative in providing enough detail then s ...more
Jo Koenig
Feb 12, 2016 Jo Koenig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book beginning to end, some descriptions of war are very graphic, but it places you back in time like you are there.
Ross
Feb 01, 2015 Ross rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Picked off the shelf in the library in the hopes of reading how Kepler managed to workout the orbits of the planets and prove the theory of Copernicus of the Sun centered solar system. Although in the introduction to the book, the author states he doesn't deal with the science of Kepler's discoveries except in broad terms I searched the book to find the science that was included. My mistake. There was really no coverage of the science at all and I wasted 5 hours skimming the book looking for it. ...more
Liza
Feb 17, 2015 Liza rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
overall thus was an interesting and informative book. however, it was a bit too informative. the title is misleading in that the circumstances surrounding the witch trial of keplers mother was more of a subplot, a tangent, to the book. kepler was a fascinating man, who lived in a very dynamic time of history. the author provides A LOT of background information and side stories of keplers friends and colleagues. while this is interesting to understanding the time period, it is not pertinent to th ...more
Brandi
Nov 17, 2013 Brandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conner does give a lot of information about Kepler's life and work as well as how he was affected by his faith, his ideas about science, ideologies, etc. Even though there is a lot of useful information presented in this book, it can seem a bit 'choppy' at times. Parts of the book do not always flow well together and the information presented can often be repetitive.
I rated this book a 4 because it does provide a lot of useful information about Johannes Kepler and his life and trials in Counter
...more
Corey
Jun 22, 2008 Corey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Really interesting so far. I'm enjoying the backdrop of theological wars, political madness, and social stuff (from ties to the effects of stupid human stuff like gossip) over scientific quests and the dawning of the age of reason.

He makes a similar point to Dav Sobel in "Galileo's Daughter" that men of science of the day were generally religious men who thought that their scientific learning were revealing the nature of god, and that academic and scientific debate took place most often in the c
...more
Jim Good
Dec 17, 2009 Jim Good rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History of Johannes Kepler the mathematician who found the formula to prove the Copernican theory of a sun centered solar system using the ellipse as the proper form. Started with mars and worked the theory through all the known planets. The book is less about his science and math and more about his times being true start of the 30 years war and the counter-reformation. During all this, as Keplar was the emperor’s mathematician (primarily a post for astrology reasons), his mother is tried and co ...more
Jim Harstad
An excellent story of Kepler's life and the world he lived in. I would have liked to have read a little more about the science, but the author did clearly state the book was not so much about that. The history was just as engaging, particularly Kepler's relationships with Tycho and Galileo.
Valorie
Dec 09, 2011 Valorie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There was so much I didnt know about that time period and what people had to go through to make any progress whatsoever in science or anything else. There was so much resistance and darkness to fight through. Kepler was so brave and had such integrity. I loved everything about this book from the historical setting about the thirty years war (which I knew nothing about) to the work that he did and the discoveries he helped to make.
Jerroleen
It starts out as quite a promising book, but loses focus after the witch trial. I felt that the title is a bit of false advertising, as the witch trial is a very small part of the story. Connor's prose is clear, but uninspired. I enjoyed it and learned a lot about the politics of the Thirty Years' War as well as the philosophy of astronomy during the 1600's. It's definitely worth reading.
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James A. Connor is the author of Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother and Silent Fire: Bringing the Spirituality of Silence to Everyday Life. A former Jesuit priest, Connor is professor of English at Kean University in Union, New Jersey; he has also held teaching posts at St. Louis University and Gonzag ...more
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