Outstanding scientist and committed Christian
Johannes Kepler was born in the town of Weil der Stadt, Germany, on December 27, 1571. Johannes was a very small boy who was frequently ill. At the age of three years he contracted smallpox and lingered close to death for several months. His childhood was also unsettled and unhappy. His father was a mercenary soldier who was away from home for long periods, sometimes years at a time.
When Johannes’ mother went away to be with her husband, Johannes was left with his grandfather. The separation from his parents was distressing for Johannes, but God blessed him during these years. His grandfather, a dedicated Christian, encouraged young Johannes as his faith grew. Although poor, Johannes’ grandfather appreciated the value of education and sent Johannes to school. The boy’s outstanding academic ability soon came to the attention of his teachers.
When Johannes’ parents returned after several years, his father, Heinrich, set up business as an innkeeper.
Heinrich was not interested in paying fees to send his son to school. Instead he saw Johannes as a cheap source of labour in the inn, so Heinrich made his son leave school. However, business at the inn later declined and Johannes’ help was not really needed. With his former teachers’ encouragement, Johannes successfully obtained a scholarship from the Duke of Württemberg to enable him to continue his schooling. Johannes’ drunken father reluctantly allowed him to return to school.
Through the Duke’s continued generosity, Johannes Kepler was able to begin attending the University of Tübingen in 1587. His studies included Latin, Hebrew, Greek, the Bible, mathematics, and astronomy. Kepler was taught mathematics and astronomy by Michael Mästlin, one of the few astronomy professors of that time who had accepted Copernicus’ idea that the planets, including the earth, revolved around the sun. Almost all scholars of that era still believed that the earth was the centre of the solar system.
Kepler obtained his B.A. degree in 1588 and his M.A. degree in 1591. He then continued at Tübingen, studying theology. During his youth, Kepler had become a committed Christian and dedicated himself to serving God. As he said shortly before he died, he believed ‘only and alone in the service of Jesus Christ. In Him is all refuge, all solace.’1 Kepler intended to serve God as a Lutheran minister after completing his university education. However, God had other plans for this uniquely gifted young man.
In 1594, Kepler was asked to go to the Lutheran high school in Graz, Austria, to replace the mathematics teacher who had just died. Although close to finishing his theological training, Kepler felt led by God to take up this teaching position….
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