His name might not immediately spring to mind like Galileo or Copernicus, but Johannes Kepler was one of the most important astronomers in history. He not only laid the groundwork of modern astronomy when he discovered the planets' orbits were elliptical, he set the stage for Isaac Newton to unify the force that moves the planets and the force that brings apples to the ground. (Put it this way: NASA doesn't name the search for Earth-like planets after you for nothing.) But in 1620, the motion of the planets was the furthest thing from his mind. He was too busy building a case to defend his elderly mother from accusations of witchcraft.
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Written by Reuben Westmaas October 19, 2017
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