German Men of Ideas: Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

"Truth is the daughter of time, and I have no shame in being her midwife."

Field of Study: Astronomer, mathematician, astrologer.

Revolutionary Insight: Kepler's laws of planetary motion posited, for the first time, that planets make elliptical orbits around the sun, sweeping out equal areas in equal times. His discoveries were essential to the development of Newton's laws of universal gravitation.

Controversy Quotient (0to 5): (1) The Catholic Church opposed heliocentrism, but Kepler, a Protestant, avoided the scrutiny that caused his contemporary, Galileo, to be tried for heresy.

Little Known Fact: His posthumously published novel, Somnium, describes a man's voyage to the moon. Displays an uncanny, prescient understanding of the challenges of space travel.

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