Kepler is a short history of events leading to the astronomical discoveries of Johannes Kepler. It was written by Walter William Bryant, a staff member of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. The book was published in 1920 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, and by The MacMillan Company, New York, within a series of books called "Pioneers of Progress."
Ch.1 Astronomy Before Kepler
- Some of the Pythagoreans, if not Pythagoras himself, held that the earth is a sphere, and that the apparent daily revolution of the sun and stars is really due to a motion of the earth, though at first this motion of the earth was not supposed to be one of rotation about an axis.
- Eudoxus of Cnidus, endeavouring to account for the fact that the planets, during every apparent revolution round the earth, come to rest twice, and in the shorter interval between these “stationary points,” move in the opposite direction, found that he could represent the phenomena fairly well by a system of concentric spheres, each rotating with its own velocity, and carrying its own particular planet round its own equator, the outermost sphere carrying the fixed stars. ...the total number required by Aristotle reaching fifty-five.
- It may be regarded as counting in Aristotle’s favour that he did consider the earth to be a sphere and not a flat disc, but he seems to have thought that the mathematical spheres of Eudoxus had a real solid existence, and that not only meteors, shooting stars and aurora, but also comets and the milky way belong to the atmosphere.
- Aristarchus of Samos seems to have been the first to suggest that the planets revolved not about the earth but about the sun, but the idea seemed so improbable that it was hardly noticed, especially as Aristarchus himself did not expand it into a treatise.
- Hipparchus... noted the irregular motion of the sun, and, to explain it, assumed that it revolved uniformly not exactly about the earth but about a point some distance away, called the “excentric”. The same result he could obtain by assuming that the sun moved round a small circle, whose center described a larger circle about the earth; this larger circle carrying the other was called the “deferent”: so that the actual motion of the sun was in an epicycle. He... discovered the Precession of the Equinoxes.
- No advance was made in theoretical astronomy for 260 years, the interval between Hipparchus and Ptolemy of Alexandria.
- In his [ Ptolemy's ] planetary theory... in general the agreement between theory and observation was spoilt by the necessity of making all the orbital planes pass through the center of the earth, instead of the sun, thus making a good accordance practically impossible.
- After Ptolemy’s time very little was heard for many centuries of any fresh planetary theory, though advances in some points of detail were made, notably by some of the Arab philosophers, who obtained improved values for some of the elements by using better instruments. From time to time various modifications of Ptolemy’s theory were suggested, but none of any real value.
- In Spain... in the thirteenth century Alphonso of Castile, with the assistance of Jewish and Christian computers, compiled the Alphonsine tables, completed in 1252.
- Reviewing the suggestions of the ancient Greeks, he [ Copernicus ] was struck by the simplification that would be introduced by reviving the idea that the annual motion should be attributed to the earth itself instead of having a separate annual epicycle for each planet and for the sun. Of the seventy odd circles or epicycles required by the latest form of the Ptolemaic system, Copernicus succeeded in dispensing with rather more than half, but he still required thirty-four, which was the exact number assumed before the time of Aristotle.
- His [ Copernicus' ] considerations were almost entirely mathematical, his only invasion into physics being in defense of the “moving earth” against the stock objection that if the earth moved, loose objects would fly off, and towers fall. He did not break sufficiently away from the old tradition of uniform circular motion. ...he would not sacrifice the old fetish, and so, the orbit of the earth being clearly not circular with respect to the sun, he made all his planetary planes pass through the center of the earth’s orbit, instead of through the sun, thus handicapping himself in the same way though not in the same degree as Ptolemy. His thirty-four circles or epicycles comprised four for the earth, three for the moon, seven for Mercury (on account of his highly eccentric orbit) and five each for the other planets.
- It is rather an exaggeration to call the present accepted system the Copernican system, as it is really due to Kepler, half a century after the death of Copernicus, but much credit is due to the latter for his successful attempt to provide a real alternative for the Ptolemaic system, instead of tinkering with it.
- The old geocentric system once shaken, the way was gradually smoothed for the heliocentric system, which Copernicus, still hampered by tradition, did not quite reach. He was hardly a practical astronomer in the observational sense. His first recorded observation, of an occultation of Aldebaran, was made in 1497, and he is not known to have made as many as fifty astronomical observations, while, of the few he did make and use, at least one was more than half a degree in error, which would have been intolerable to such an observer as Hipparchus.
- Luther, with his obstinate conviction of the verbal accuracy of the Scriptures, rejected as mere folly the idea of a moving earth, and Melanchthon thought such opinions should be prohibited, but Rheticus, a professor at the Protestant University of Wittenberg and an enthusiastic pupil of Copernicus, urged publication, and undertook to see the work through the press. This, however, he was unable to complete and another Lutheran, Osiander, to whom he entrusted it, wrote a preface, with the apparent intention of disarming opposition, in which he stated that the principles laid down were only abstract hypotheses convenient for purposes of calculation. This unauthorized interpolation may have had its share in postponing the prohibition of the book by the Church of Rome.
- According to Copernicus the earth is only a planet like the others, and not even the biggest one, while the sun is the most important body in the system, and the stars probably too far away for any motion of the earth to affect their apparent places. ...He shows that the revolution of the earth will account for the seasons, and for the stationary points and retrograde motions of the planets. He corrects definitely the order of the planets outwards from the sun, a matter which had been in dispute. A notable defect is due to the idea that a body can only revolve about another body or a point, as if rigidly connected with it, so that, in order to keep the earth’s axis in a constant direction in space, he has to invent a third motion.
- With all its defects, partly due to reliance on bad observations, the work [ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium ] showed a great advance in the interpretation of the motions of the planets; and his determinations of the periods both in relation to the earth and to the stars were adopted by Reinhold, Professor of Astronomy at Wittenberg, for the new Prutenic or Prussian Tables, which were to supersede the obsolete Alphonsine Tables of the thirteenth century.
- In comparison with the question of the motion of the earth, no other astronomical detail of the time seems to be of much consequence. Comets, such as from time to time appeared, bright enough for naked eye observation, were still regarded as atmospheric phenomena, and their principal interest, as well as that of eclipses and planetary conjunctions, was in relation to astrology.
- The doctrine of Copernicus was destined very soon to divide others besides the Lutheran leaders. The leaven of inquiry was working, and not long after the death of Copernicus real advances were to come, first in the accuracy of observations, and, as a necessary result of these, in the planetary theory itself.
Ch.2 Early Life of Kepler
- On 21st December, 1571, at Weil in the Duchy of Wurtemberg, was born a weak and sickly seven-months’ child, to whom his parents Henry and Catherine Kepler gave the name of John. Henry Kepler was a petty officer in the service of the reigning Duke, and in 1576 joined the army serving in the Netherlands. His wife followed him, leaving her young son in his grandfather’s care at Leonberg, where he barely recovered from a severe attack of smallpox. It was from this place that John derived the Latinised name of Leonmontanus.
- His astronomical tutor, Maestlin, encouraged him to devote himself to his newly adopted science, and the first result of this advice appeared before very long in Kepler’s “Mysterium Cosmographicum”. The bent of his mind was towards philosophical speculation, to which he had been attracted in his youthful studies of Scaliger’s “Exoteric Exercises” (Exotericarum exercitationum). He says he devoted much time “to the examination of the nature of heaven, of souls, of genii, of the elements, of the essence of fire, of the cause of fountains, the ebb and flow of the tides, the shape of the continents and inland seas, and things of this sort.”
- Following his tutor in his admiration for the Copernican theory, he [ Kepler ] wrote an essay on the primary motion, attributing it to the rotation of the earth, and this not for the mathematical reasons brought forward by Copernicus, but, as he himself says, on physical or metaphysical grounds.
- He was nevertheless unwilling to adopt the opinion of Rheticus that the number six was sacred, maintaining that the “sacredness” of the number was of much more recent date than the creation of the worlds, and could not therefore account for it.
- The actual planets moreover were not even six but only five, so far as he knew, so he next pondered the question of what sort of things these could be of which only five different figures were possible and suddenly thought of the five regular solids. He immediately pounced upon this idea and ultimately evolved the following scheme. “The earth is the sphere, the measure of all; round it describe a dodecahedron; the sphere including this will be Mars. Round Mars describe a tetrahedron; the sphere including this will be Jupiter. Describe a cube round Jupiter; the sphere including this will be Saturn. Now, inscribe in the earth an icosahedron, the sphere inscribed in it will be Venus: inscribe an octahedron in Venus: the circle inscribed in it will be Mercury.” With this result Kepler was inordinately pleased, and regretted not a moment of the time spent in obtaining it, though to us this “Mysterium Cosmographicum” can only appear useless, even without the more recent additions to the known planets.
- He admitted that a certain thickness must be assigned to the intervening spheres to cover the greatest and least distances of the several planets from the sun, but even then some of the numbers obtained are not a very close fit for the corresponding planetary orbits. Kepler’s own suggested explanation of the discordances was that they must be due to erroneous measures of the planetary distances, and this, in those days of crude and infrequent observations, could not easily be disproved.
- The next subject... dealt with the relation between the distances of the planets and their times of revolution round the sun. It was obvious that the period was not simply proportional to the distance, as the outer planets were all too slow for this, and he concluded “either that the moving intelligences of the planets are weakest in those that are farthest from the sun, or that there is one moving intelligence in the sun, the common centre, forcing them all round, but those most violently which are nearest, and that it languishes in some sort and grows weaker at the most distant, because of the remoteness and the attenuation of the virtue”. This is not so near a guess at the theory of gravitation as might be supposed, for Kepler imagined that a repulsive force was necessary to account for the planets being sometimes further from the sun, and so laid aside the idea of a constant attractive force.
- He sent copies of his book [Mysterium Cosmographicum] to several leading astronomers, of whom Galileo praised his ingenuity and good faith, while Tycho Brahe was evidently much struck with the work and advised him to adapt something similar to the Tychonic system instead of the Copernican. He also intimated that his Uraniborg observations would provide more accurate determinations of the planetary orbits, and thus made Kepler eager to visit him.
- Another copy of the book Kepler sent to Reymers the Imperial astronomer with a most fulsome letter, which Tycho, who asserted that Reymers had simply plagiarised his work, very strongly resented, thus drawing from Kepler a long letter of apology.
- About the same time Kepler had married a lady already twice widowed, and become involved in difficulties with her relatives on financial grounds, and with the Styrian authorities in connection with the religious disputes then coming to a head. On account of these latter he thought it expedient, the year after his marriage, to withdraw to Hungary, from whence he sent short treatises to Tübingen, “On the magnet” (following the ideas of Gilbert of Colchester), “On the cause of the obliquity of the ecliptic” and “On the Divine wisdom as shown in the Creation”.
Ch.3 Tycho Brahe
- The age following that of Copernicus produced three outstanding figures associated with the science of astronomy, then reaching the close of what Professor Forbes so aptly styles the geometrical period. These three Sir David Brewster has termed “Martyrs of Science”; Galileo, the great Italian philosopher, has his own place among the “Pioneers of Science”; and invaluable though Tycho Brahe’s work was, the latter can hardly be claimed as a pioneer in the same sense as the other two. Nevertheless, Kepler, the third member of the trio, could not have made his most valuable discoveries without Tycho’s observations.
- See George Forbes, History of Astronomy (1909) p.1-39
- Of noble family, born a twin on 14th December, 1546, at Knudstrup in Scania (the southernmost part of Sweden, then forming part of the kingdom of Denmark), Tycho was kidnapped a year later by a childless uncle. This uncle brought him up as his own son, provided him at the age of seven with a tutor, and sent him in 1559 to the University of Copenhagen, to study for a political career by taking courses in rhetoric and philosophy.
- On 21st August, 1560, however, a solar eclipse took place, total in Portugal, and therefore of small proportions in Denmark, and Tycho’s keen interest was awakened, not so much by the phenomenon, as by the fact that it had occurred according to prediction. Soon afterwards he purchased an edition of Ptolemy in order to read up the subject of astronomy, to which, and to mathematics, he devoted most of the remainder of his three years’ course at Copenhagen.
- He obtained the Alphonsine and the new Prutenic Tables, but soon found that the latter, though more accurate than the former, failed to represent the true positions of the planets, and grasped the fact that continuous observation was essential in order to determine the true motions.
- He provided himself with a cross-staff for determining the angular distance between stars or other objects, and, finding the divisions of the scale inaccurate, constructed a table of corrections, an improvement that seems to have been a decided innovation, the previous practice having been to use the best available instrument and ignore its errors.
- He matriculated at Rostock, where he found little astronomy but a good deal of astrology. While there he fought a duel in the dark and lost part of his nose, which he replaced by a composition of gold and silver.
- In 1568 Tycho left Rostock, and matriculated at Basle, but soon moved on to Augsburg, where he found more enthusiasm for astronomy, and induced one of his new friends to order the construction of a large 19-foot quadrant of heavy oak beams. This was the first of the series of great instruments associated with Tycho’s name, and it remained in use for five years, being destroyed by a great storm in 1574.
- On 11th November, 1572, Tycho noticed an unfamiliar bright star in the constellation of Cassiopeia, and continued to observe it with a sextant. It was a very brilliant object, equal to Venus at its brightest for the rest of November, not falling below the first magnitude for another four months, and remaining visible for more than a year afterwards.
- Tycho wrote a little book [On the New Star or De nova stella] on the new star, maintaining that it had practically no parallax, and therefore could not be, as some supposed, a comet. Deeming authorship beneath the dignity of a noble he was very reluctant to publish, but he was convinced of the importance of increasing the number and accuracy of observations, though he was by no means free from all the erroneous ideas of his time. The little book contained a certain amount of astrology, but Tycho evidently did not regard this as of very great importance. He adopted the view that the very rarity of the phenomenon of a new star must prevent the formulation and adoption of definite rules for determining its significance.
- We gather from lectures which he was persuaded to deliver at the University of Copenhagen that, though in agreement with the accepted canons of astrology as to the influence of planetary conjunctions and such phenomena on the course of human events, he did not consider the fate predicted by anyone’s horoscope to be unavoidable, but thought the great value of astrology lay in the warnings derived from such computations, which should enable the believer to avoid threatened calamities.
- In 1575 he left Denmark once more and made his way to Cassel, where he found a kindred spirit in the studious Landgrave, William IV of Hesse, whose astronomical pursuits had been interrupted by his accession to the government of Hesse, in 1567. Tycho observed with him for some time, the two forming a firm friendship, and then visited successively Frankfort, Basle, and Venice, returning by way of Augsburg, Ratisbon, and Saalfeld to Wittenberg; on the way he acquired various astronomical manuscripts, made friends among practical astronomers, and examined new instruments.
- On his return to Denmark to fetch his family with the object of transferring them to Basle, he found that his friend the Landgrave had written to King Frederick on his behalf.
- Tycho accepted from the king a grant of the small island of Hveen, in the Sound, with a guaranteed income... Here Tycho built his celebrated observatory of Uraniborg and began observations in December, 1576, using the large instruments then found necessary in order to attain the accuracy of observation which within the next half-century was to be so greatly facilitated by the invention of the telescope. ...For more than twenty years he continued his observations at Uraniborg, surrounded by his family, and attracting numerous pupils.
- His [Tycho's] constant aim was to accumulate a large store of observations of a high order of accuracy, and thus to provide data for the complete reform of astronomy.
- Few of the Danish nobles had any sympathy with Tycho’s pursuits, and most of them strongly resented the continual expense borne by the King’s treasury. Tycho moreover was so absorbed in his scientific pursuits that he would not take the trouble to be a good landlord, nor to carry out all the duties laid upon him in return for certain of his grants of income.
- His buildings included a chemical laboratory, and he was in the habit of making up elixirs for various medical purposes; these were quite popular, particularly as he made no charge for them. He seems to have been something of a homœopathist, for he recommends sulphur to cure infectious diseases “brought on by the sulphurous vapours of the Aurora Borealis”!
- In November, 1577, appeared a bright comet, which Tycho carefully observed with his sextant, proving that it had no perceptible parallax, and must therefore be further off than the moon. He thus definitely overthrew the common belief in the atmospheric origin of comets, which he had himself hitherto shared. With increasing accuracy he observed several other comets, notably one in 1585, when he had a full equipment of instruments and a large staff of assistants.
- The year 1588, which saw the death of his royal benefactor, saw also the publication of a volume of Tycho’s great work “Introduction to the New Astronomy”. The first volume, devoted to the new star of 1572, was not ready, because the reduction of the observations involved so much research to correct the star places for refraction, precession, etc.; it was not completed in fact until Tycho’s death, but the second volume, dealing with the comet of 1577, was printed at Uraniborg and some copies were issued in 1588. Besides the comet observations it included an account of Tycho’s system of the world.
- Also known as Astronomiæ Instauratæ Progymnasmata
- He [Tycho] would not accept the Copernican system, as he considered the earth too heavy and sluggish to move, and also that the authority of Scripture was against such an hypothesis. He therefore assumed that the other planets revolved about the sun, while the sun, moon, and stars revolved about the earth as a center. Geometrically this is much the same as the Copernican system, but physically it involves the grotesque demand that the whole system of stars revolves round our insignificant little earth every twenty-four hours.
- Since his previous small book on the comet, Tycho had evidently considered more fully its possible astrological significance, for he foretold a religious war, giving the date of its commencement, and also the rising of a great Protestant champion. These predictions were apparently fulfilled almost to the letter by the great religious wars that broke out towards the end of the sixteenth century, and in the person of Gustavus Adolphus.
- He [Tycho]... reached Prague in June, 1599. Rudolph granted him a salary of at least 3000 florins, promising also to settle on him the first hereditary estate that should lapse to the Crown.
- Kepler, who had been in correspondence with Tycho, consented to join him as an assistant. Another assistant, Longomontanus, who had been with Tycho at Uraniborg, was finding difficulty with the long series of Mars observations, and it was arranged that he should transfer his energies to the lunar observations, leaving those of Mars for Kepler. Before very much could be done with them, however, Tycho died at the end of October, 1601
- It was at Uraniborg that the mass of observations was produced upon which the fame of Tycho Brahe rests. His own discoveries, though in themselves the most important made in astronomy for many centuries, are far less valuable than those for which his observations furnished the material.
- He [Tycho] discovered the third and fourth inequalities of the moon in longitude, called respectively the variation and the annual equation, also the variability of the motion of the moon’s nodes and the inclination of its orbit to the ecliptic. He obtained an improved value of the constant of precession, and did good service by rejecting the idea that it was variable, an idea which, under the name of trepidation, had for many centuries been accepted. He discovered the effect of refraction, though only approximately its amount, and determined improved values of many other astronomical constants, but singularly enough made no determination of the distance of the sun, adopting instead the ancient and erroneous value given by Hipparchus.
- His [Tycho's] magnificent Observatory of Uraniborg, the finest building for astronomical purposes that the world had hitherto seen, was allowed to fall into decay, and scarcely more than mere indications of the site may now be seen.
Ch.4 Kepler Joins Tycho
- Kepler was delayed by illness on the way, but ultimately reached Prague, accompanied by his wife, and for some time lived entirely at Tycho’s expense, writing by way of return essays against Reymers and another man, who had claimed the credit of the Tychonic system.
- In September, 1601, Tycho presented him [Kepler] to the Emperor, who gave him the title of Imperial Mathematician, on condition of assisting Tycho in his calculations, the very thing Kepler was most anxious to be allowed to do: for nowhere else in the world was there such a collection of good observations sufficient for his purpose of reforming the whole theory of astronomy.
- Tycho... died of acute distemper; Kepler began to prepare the mass of manuscripts for publication, but, as everything was claimed by the Brahe family, he was not allowed to finish the work. He succeeded to Tycho’s post of principal mathematician to the Emperor, at a reduced official salary. In order to meet his expenses he had recourse to the casting of nativities, for which he gained considerable reputation and received very good pay. He worked by the conventional rules of astrology, and was quite prepared to take fees for so doing, although he had very little faith in them, preferring his own fanciful ideas.
- In 1604 the constellation of Cassiopeia was once more temporarily enriched by the appearance of a new star... Kepler at once wrote a short account of it... He made no secret of his views on conventional astrology, as to which he claimed to speak with the authority of one fully conversant with its principles, but he nevertheless expressed his sincere conviction that the conjunctions and aspects of the planets certainly did affect things on the earth, maintaining that he was driven to this belief against his will by “most unfailing experiences”.
- In 1604 he [Kepler] published “A Supplement to Vitellion,” containing the earliest known reasonable theory of optics, and especially of dioptrics or vision through lenses. He compared the mechanism of the eye with that of Porta’s “Camera Obscura,” but made no attempt to explain how the image formed on the retina is understood by the brain. He went carefully into the question of refraction, the importance of which Tycho had been the first astronomer to recognize, though he only applied it at low altitudes, and had not arrived at a true theory or accurate values.
- Kepler wasted a good deal of time and ingenuity on trial theories. He would invariably start with some hypothesis, and work out the effect. He would then test it by experiment, and when it failed would at once recognize that his hypothesis was a priori bound to fail. He rarely seems to have noticed the fatal objections in time to save himself trouble. He would then at once start again on a new hypothesis, equally gratuitous and equally unfounded. It never seems to have occurred to him that there might be a better way of approaching a problem.
- Not many years later Snell discovered the true law of refraction, but Kepler’s contribution to the subject, though he failed to discover the actual law, includes several of the adopted “by-laws”. He noted that atmospheric refraction would alter with the height of the atmosphere and with temperature, and also recognized the fact that rainbow colors depend on the angle of refraction, whether seen in the rainbow itself, or in dew, glass, water, or any similar medium. He thus came near to anticipating Newton.
- After hearing of Galileo’s telescope, Kepler suggested that for astronomical purposes two convex lenses should be used, so that there should be a real image where measuring wires could be placed for reference. He did not carry out the idea himself, and it was left to the Englishman Gascoigne to produce the first instrument on this “Keplerian” principle, universally known as the Astronomical Telescope.
- In 1606 came a second treatise on the new star... This was followed in 1607 by a treatise on comets, suggested by the comet appearing that year, known as Halley’s comet after its next return. He regarded comets as “planets” moving in straight lines, never having examined sufficient observations of any comet to convince himself that their paths are curved.
- Another suggestive remark of his [Kepler's] was to the effect that the planets must be self-luminous, as otherwise Mercury and Venus, at any rate, ought to show phases. This was put to the test not long afterwards by means of Galileo’s telescope.
- In 1607 Kepler rushed into print with an alleged observation of Mercury crossing the sun, but after Galileo’s discovery of sun-spots, Kepler at once cheerfully retracted his observation of “Mercury,” and... warmly adopted Galileo’s side... Maestlin and others of Kepler’s friends took the opposite view.
Ch.5 Kepler’s Laws
- When Gilbert of Colchester, in his “New Philosophy,” founded on his researches in magnetism, was dealing with tides, he did not suggest that the moon attracted the water, but that “subterranean spirits and humours, rising in sympathy with the moon, cause the sea also to rise and flow to the shores and up rivers”. It appears that an idea, presented in some such way as this, was more readily received than a plain statement. This so-called philosophical method was, in fact, very generally applied, and Kepler, who shared Galileo’s admiration for Gilbert’s work, adopted it in his own attempt to extend the idea of magnetic attraction to the planets.
- Note complete title: New Philosophy about our Sublunary World or De Mundo Nostro Sublunari Philosophia Nova
- The general idea of “gravity” opposed the hypothesis of the rotation of the earth on the ground that loose objects would fly off: moreover, the latest refinements of the old system of planetary motions necessitated their orbits being described about a mere empty point. Kepler very strongly combated these notions, pointing out the absurdity of the conclusions to which they tended, and proceeded in set terms to describe his own theory.
- “Every corporeal substance, so far forth as it is corporeal, has a natural fitness for resting in every place where it may be situated by itself beyond the sphere of influence of a body cognate with it. Gravity is a mutual affection between cognate bodies towards union or conjunction (similar in kind to the magnetic virtue), so that the earth attracts a stone much rather than the stone seeks the earth. ...wheresoever the earth may be placed, or whithersoever it may be carried by its animal faculty, heavy bodies will always be carried towards it. If the earth were not round, heavy bodies would not tend from every side in a straight line towards the centre of the earth, but to different points from different sides. If two stones were placed... near each other, and beyond the sphere of influence of a third cognate body, these stones, like two magnetic needles, would come together in the intermediate point, each approaching the other by a space proportional to the comparative mass of the other. If the moon and earth were not retained in their orbits by their animal force or some other equivalent, the earth would mount to the moon by a fifty-fourth part of their distance, and the moon fall towards the earth through the other fifty-three parts, and they would there meet, assuming, however, that the substance of both is of the same density. If the earth should cease to attract its waters to itself all the waters of the sea would he raised and would flow to the body of the moon. The sphere of the attractive virtue which is in the moon extends as far as the earth, and entices up the waters; but as the moon flies rapidly across the zenith, and the waters cannot follow so quickly, a flow of the ocean is occasioned in the torrid zone towards the westward. If the attractive virtue of the moon extends as far as the earth, it follows with greater reason that the attractive virtue of the earth extends as far as the moon and much farther; and, in short, nothing which consists of earthly substance anyhow constituted although thrown up to any height, can ever escape the powerful operation of this attractive virtue. Nothing which consists of corporeal matter is absolutely light, but that is comparatively lighter which is rarer, either by its own nature, or by accidental heat. And it is not to be thought that light bodies are escaping to the surface of the universe while they are carried upwards, or that they are not attracted by the earth. They are attracted, but in a less degree, and so are driven outwards by the heavy bodies; which being done, they stop, and are kept by the earth in their own place. But although the attractive virtue of the earth extends upwards, as has been said, so very far, yet if any stone should be at a distance great enough to become sensible compared with the earth’s diameter, it is true that on the motion of the earth such a stone would not follow altogether; its own force of resistance would be combined with the attractive force of the earth, and thus it would extricate itself in some degree from the motion of the earth.” The above passage from the Introduction to Kepler’s “Commentaries on the Motion of Mars,” always regarded as his most valuable work, must have been known to Newton, so that no such incident as the fall of an apple was required to provide a necessary and sufficient explanation of the genesis of his Theory of Universal Gravitation. Kepler’s glimpse at such a theory could have been no more than a glimpse, for he went no further with it. This seems a pity, as it is far less fanciful than many of his [Kepler's] ideas, though not free from the “virtues” and “animal faculties,” that correspond to Gilbert’s “spirits and humours”.
- See Astronomia nova, or New Astronomy, Based upon Causes, or Celestial Physics, Treated by Means of Commentaries on the Motions of the Star Mars, from the Observations of Tycho Brahe, Gent