Two days after Christmas in 1571 in the small town of Weil der Stadt, Germany, Heinrich and Katharina Kepler had their fourth child and named him Johannes. Born a month too early, Johannes was a small baby and had many illnesses while growing up including smallpox at age three that almost killed him.
Johannes’s grandfather who was a Christian had a great influence on the young lad and was instrumental in his Christian faith. Kepler’s father didn’t see the need nor could he afford to send him to school, but his grandfather managed to earn enough money to send his grandson to school. Encouraged by his grandfather, Johannes excelled at school, until his father took him out of school to work in the family business. However, the family business did not do well and with the help of some of Johannes’s teachers, he received a scholarship from the Duke of Württemberg that allowed him to continue his education.
During his school days, Johannes Kepler accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Young Kepler decided early on to spend his life studying and serving God as a Lutheran minister and approached his studies with that desire to learn about God’s Word and God’s world.
In 1587, at the age of 16, Johannes attended the University of Tübingen. His studies included mathematics, astronomy the Bible and three languages – Hebrew, Greek and Latin. At the time Kepler was attending the university, the idea that the earth and planets revolved around the sun was not widely accepted. However, one of his professors did believe this and taught it to Kepler.
After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in 1588 (age 17) and a Master’s Degree in 1591 (age 20), Johannes wanted to stay at the university and study theology. Just before he completed his study of theology in 1594, Kepler followed what he thought was God’s leading and moved to Graz, Austria to take over the position as the mathematics teacher at the Lutheran high school.
While teaching at Graz, his expertise in mathematics soon earned him the position of district mathematician. Kepler became responsible for accuracy of weights and measures used in businesses, for calendar making and for land surveying. His work on calendar making involved the listing of dates for planting and harvesting of crops, for military purposes and even dates for love.
To set the dates for the farmers, Kepler had to study the seasons and things like the length of daylight the cycle of the moon. These things depend upon the earth’s rotation around the sun, its tilt on its axis and the orbit of the moon. All of these are observations in astronomy which he had studied at the university. Kepler wanted to make sure that his calendar dates were scientifically accurate and not based upon astrology like so many others of his day did. In 1601, he wrote that the belief that the stars direct the lives of man (knows as astrology) is unreliable and cannot be trusted.
During Keller’s time, most other scientists believed that there was no real order to the universe around them. Kepler, on the other hand believed that God had created everything with a purpose and that there would be a logical pattern and order to that creation. He continued to study the heavens as much as possible.
His efforts caught the attention of one of the leading astronomers of the time, Tycho Brahe from Denmark. Brahe was very impressed with Kepler’s mathematic expertise, so he invited him to become part of group of astronomers. While working with Brahe’s team of scientists, Kepler used his mathematics to show that Mars orbits the Sun in an elliptical pattern instead of a circular orbit. He also discovered that when planets orbit the Sun, their speed was not constant as everyone else thought. The closer a planet got to the Sun, the faster the planet traveled and as the planet moved further away from the Sun the slower the planet traveled.
In 1609, he published his book, Astronomia nova (New Astronomy) that discussed these new discoveries. These ideas became known as Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Kepler’s first law stated that all planets orbit the Sun in an elliptical pattern. Kepler’s second law stated that the line joining a planet to the sun sweeps over equal areas in equal times in its elliptical orbit.
In 1618, Kepler published a book called Harmonice mundi (Harmony of the Worlds). This book contained Kelper’s third law of planetary motion which stated that the average distance of a planet from the sun, raised to the third power, divided by the square of the time it takes for the planet to complete one orbit, is the same for all planets. In other words, the time it takes a planet to complete an orbit of the Sun relates to the average distance the planet is from the Sun.
During his lifetime, there were many superstitions held be astrologers involving the stars and planets. Kepler’s faith in the Creator God of the Bible lead him to discover these basic laws of planetary motion and dispel many of those superstitions.
His Christian faith and desire to learn as much about God’s world as possible also lead Kepler to improve the telescopes used in his day along with other optics. He studied how the human eye worked and even discovered a new star. His publications of the positions of the stars and planets proved to be of great importance to sailors at sea. It helped to make their navigation more accurate than ever before. Kepler also studied the date of Jesus’ birth and other biblical dates of importance.
On November 15, 1630 at the age of 58, Johannes Kepler died of a server illness.
Today, he is remembered as one of the founders of modern science. So when some evolutionist tells you that no scientist would believe in the Bible’s account of Creation, you can tell them how Kepler played an important role in astronomy and discovered laws of planetary motion that are still used today. He was a great mathematician and scientist and most of all he was a Bible believing Christian.