Along his way to discovering the fundamental laws of planetary motion, Johannes Kepler encountered a myriad of difficult challenges that defined who he became. Abused by his father as a child, Kepler had to endure the death of his first wife and two infant daughters, defend his mother against charges of witchcraft, struggle through severe financial difficulties, and suffer being excommunicated from his beloved Lutheran faith because he extended a hand of fellowship to Catholics and Calvinists. Through it all, Kepler’s lifelong pursuit was to develop meaningful relationships with his family and friends, discover truth, and generate some happiness in his life and others.
Amidst the adversity that surrounded him, Kepler saw the power and majesty of God manifest in the beauty of nature and the hidden harmony of the planets and stars. He not only discovered the three basic laws of planetary motion that led Isaac Newton to the universal law of gravitation, but also laid the foundations for modern optics and paved the pathway for the development of calculus by Newton and Wilhelm von Gottfried Leibniz. Interesting perspective is added to the book by the inclusion of personal letters, journal entries, and poetry written by Kepler.
In places, author James A. Connor’s writing suffers from too much repetition of facts and incidents and is also rather dull and unorganized. Regardless, Kepler’s Witch: An Astronomer’s Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother is a very worthwhile, well-researched account of a great scientist and human being. It provides detailed insights into the history, politics, and social upheaval that permeated the times of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.