December 27, 1571. German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler was born 446 years ago today. We remember him for believing in the Copernican model – a sun-centered, not an Earth-centered solar system – when few others did and for showing the truth of the theory, via his three famous laws of planetary motion. He’s also known for working on the science of refraction – the splitting of light into its component colors – and for the basic science behind correcting eyeglasses.
Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt, Germany to a poor family. During the 16th century, religion was still responsible for the education of the populace, and so Kepler studied in religious schools. He began studying at the University of Tubingen in 1589. He wished to become a theologian, but his awe of God led him to astronomy. The purpose of Kepler’s work was always religious: he wanted to understand the universe in order to understand God.