If in Prague, on the way from the Charles Bridge to the Old Town Square, in the area of house number 6 on Karlova Street, you turn into an arch to the right, you will find yourself in a completely different city – without crowds of noisy tourists, in a quiet and cozy courtyard-well of old Prague. Here, in a modest house, since 1600, the outstanding astronomer, mechanic, optician and mathematical genius Johannes Kepler lived and worked for 10 years.
In 2009 Prague celebrated the Year of Astronomy. Among other events, the opening of the house-museum of the great scientist (Keplerovo muzeum) took place. A memorial sign was erected in his courtyard in the form of a stylized model of the solar system with the orbits of the five planets known at the time of Kepler.
Kepler model. Story
Johann (Johannes, Czech – Jan) Kepler (1571 – 1630) was born into a family of German burghers in the German city of Weil der Stadt, which is 30 kilometers from Stuttgart. No one hoped that the premature baby would survive, but he got stronger. He was baptized according to the Lutheran rite and named Johann, since he was born on the day of John the Theologian.
As a child, Johann was seriously ill with smallpox, but survived. However, as a result of the disease, his vision suffered: in addition to myopia, the boy acquired a rare defect of vision – polyopia, that is, he saw objects “multiplied”. In adulthood, this greatly interfered with his observations of the stars.
Kepler arrived in Prague already a mature scientist at the invitation of Tycho Brahe, who served here as a court mathematician and astrologer for Emperor Rudolf II. After Brahe’s death in 1601, Kepler took his place. But the emperor, mired in wars, did not give much financial support to his scientists. Therefore, Kepler had to earn extra money on the side by compiling horoscopes. Although he did it reluctantly, saying: “astrology is the stupid daughter of science. But the salary of mathematicians is so small that the mother would probably starve if her daughter did not earn anything.”
Kepler’s contribution to science is enormous.
But, as often happens, he was not appreciated by his contemporaries – during his lifetime he undeservedly remained in the shadow of the more famous Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Giordano Bruno. He tried to find understanding with Galileo and the same Brahe, but they did not take his ideas seriously, and Kepler himself was considered an eccentric. But it was he who discovered the law on the principles of the motion of planets around the Sun. And we now use his other invention every day – in 1613 in Regensburg, on the territory of the German principalities, the Gregorian calendar proposed by Kepler was adopted.
In the same Regensburg, the great scientist spent the last years of his life and was buried in the local cemetery after his death in November 1630. His grave was not preserved – during the 30-year war, the Swedes destroyed the cemetery. But the epitaph written by Kepler himself survived: Mensus eram coelos, nunc terrae metior umbras
Mens coelestis erat, corporis umbra iacet.
I measured the sky, and now I measure the shadows.
My mind is in heaven and my body rests in the earth.
At the end of December 2017, the Kepler Museum in the Old Town closed and was transferred to the National Technical Museum. Maybe this is right – it was very small, occupied only 22 square meters and it was very difficult to lure tourists there.
In Prague there is a “real” monument to Kepler and Braga – it is located in front of the Kepler gymnasium and on the street that bears his name. It is also called a monument to a German and a Dane on Czech soil.
And this is not the only monument to the great astronomer – there are monuments in his homeland in Weil der Stadt, in Regensburg, where he rested, as well as in Linz and Graz, where he worked. In addition, postage stamps and coins have been issued in honor of Kepler (see photo gallery).