The Astronomer & the Witch: Johannes Kepler's Fight for His Mother

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Oxford University Press, 2015 - Astronomers - 359 pages
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Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was one of the most admired astronomers who ever lived and a key figure in the scientific revolution. A defender of Copernicus' s sun-centered universe, he famously discovered that planets move in ellipses, and defined the three laws of planetary motion. Perhaps less well known is that in 1615, when Kepler was at the height of his career, his widowed mother Katharina was accused of witchcraft. The proceedings led to a criminal trial that lasted six years, with Kepler conducting his mother's defense.

In The Astronomer and the Witch, Ulinka Rublack pieces together the tale of this extraordinary episode in Kepler's life, one which takes us to the heart of his changing world. First and foremost an intense family drama, the story brings to life the world of a small Lutheran community in the centre of Europe at a time of deep religious and political turmoil--a century after the Reformation, and on the threshold of the Thirty Years' War.

Kepler's defense of his mother also offers us a fascinating glimpse into the great astronomer's world view, on the cusp between Reformation and scientific revolution. While advancing rational explanations for the phenomena which his mother's accusers attributed to witchcraft, Kepler nevertheless did not call into question the existence of magic and witches. On the contrary, he clearly believed in them. And, as the story unfolds, it appears that there were moments when even Katharina's children wondered whether their mother really did have nothing to hide...

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - hadden - LibraryThing

A readable work about the mother of the famed astronomer, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), who was accused of witchcraft in Germany. In 1615, his 73 year old mother, Katharina Kepler was accused of ... Read full review

The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler's Fight for His Mother

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

In this luminous study, Rublack (Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe), professor of early modern European history the University of Cambridge, shows that Johannes Kepler (1571–1630 ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Katharinas Life
17
A Lutheran Court
45
The Year of the Witches
67
Keplers Strategies
87
A Family Responds
109
Movements of the Soul
133
The Trial Continues
157
Keplers Return
207
The Defence
221
The Trial Ends
243
Keplers Dream
265
EPILOGUE
295
Notes
307
Further Reading and Viewing
345
Acknowledgements
347

Other Witches
177
Katharinas Imprisonment
193

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About the author (2015)

Ulinka Rublack is Professor at the University of Cambridge and has published widely on early modern European history as well as approaches to history. She has edited, most recently, the Oxford Concise Companion to History (2011), and her Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations is forthcoming. Her monographs include Reformation Europe (2005), The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany (1999), and Dressing Up: CulturalIdentity in Renaissance Europe (2010), which won the Roland H. Bainton Prize.

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