(December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630)

This Renaissance-era mathematician achieved many “firsts” in astronomy, mechanics, waves, optics and numerical analysis. Today, he is most revered for using complex mathematics to unmask the planetary dynamics of our solar system. Like Nicolaus Copernicus whom he admired, Johannes Kepler was ahead of his time. He was the first person to suggest that the planets in our solar system circle around the sun in elliptical orbits; thus, quashing a long series of incorrect theories which stretched back to ancient Greece. He was also the first scientist who accurately explained the mechanisms of tidal waves. His works were so advanced for his era that both Galileo Galilei and René Descartes failed to embrace them earlier than they should have. But even before he gained fame, Tyco Brahe saw in him the future of astronomy. Decades later, Kepler’s legacies in geometry, optics and astronomy would fascinate, inspire and illuminate the mind of a young Cambridge student, named Isaac Newton. It was Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion that inspired Newton to research further and come-up with his own Laws of Motion, as well as that of Universal Gravitation. In astronomy: a moon crater, another crater on mars, a spacecraft and an asteroid are among the many items named after him. A lot more spread across geometry and computing. And in numerical analysis, that formula which English speakers call “Simpson’s Rule”, is known in German as “Keplersche Fassregel”. This is because Johannes Kepler developed it a century before Thomas Simpson was born.

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