The Discovery of Kepler's Laws: The Interaction of Science, Philosophy, and Religion

By Job S. J. Kozhamthadam | Go to book overview

9
THE DISCOVERY OF THE FIRST LAW

FROM THE CIRCLE TO THE OVAL

The Significance of the Discovery

Although Kepler introduced several revolutionary ideas into astronomy and physics and thus in several ways transformed our view of the world, none of his contributions was so radical as his rejection of the age-old idea of the circular orbits of the planets. The circularity principle, the maxim that all planetary bodies, despite their appearance to the contrary, in reality moved in circular orbits, was so deeply entrenched that no one had dared to challenge it. Copernicus's heliocentrism was acclaimed as revolutionary, but it, unlike Kepler's challenge to circularity, offered nothing new or unheard of; down through the centuries many eminent thinkers and astronomers had proposed a heliocentric view. With regard to the circularity principle, however, as Hanson puts it, "In 2000 years of technical, computational astronomy it had never been questioned."1 Not even a daring revolutionary like Galileo was prepared to challenge the principle. Ptolemy's introduction of the equant and consequent acceptance of the nonuniform motion of planets around the center of their orbits

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The Discovery of Kepler's Laws: The Interaction of Science, Philosophy, and Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - Kepler's System of Thought 9
  • 1 - Kepler's Religious Ideas 11
  • 2 - Kepler's Philosophical Ideas 47
  • 3 - Kepler's Scientific Ideas 84
  • Part 2 - The Discovery of the Laws 111
  • 4 - The Acceptance of Copernicanism 113
  • 5 - The Development of a Truly Heliocentric View 143
  • 6 - The Vicarious Hypothesis and Its Failure 162
  • 7 - The Final Break with Geocentrism 173
  • 8 - The Discovery of the Second Law 181
  • 9 - The Discovery of the First Law 199
  • Conclusion 246
  • Notes 265
  • Glossary of Select Technical Terms 297
  • Bibliography 301
  • Index 311
  • About the Author 316
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