Origins of the Term Kepler's Dream Part 2

About the term Kepler's Dream, origins and history of the treatise written by Johannes Kepler


"Although the Dream was not published during Kepler's lifetime, a number of sketches of it were made which passed from hand to hand among astronomers and other scientists and intellectuals, who found it provocative and exciting. No one, therefore, was prepared for a turn of events which caused the document to have near fatal consequences.

"Witch-hunting reached a peak in Germany in the early 1600s. In the spring of 1615 one of those accused was Kepler's mother, then living in Leonberg in the duchy of Wurttemberg.

"Kepler, who was working as court mathematician in Linz, heard nothing of this until almost the end of the year. He at once dispatched a furious letter to the councilor of Leonberg, lashing out at the attempt to persecute and bring to the rack a defenseless old woman and stating his intention of fighting all charges until they were wiped out.

"The letter put a stop to whispered accusations against Kepler, but it had no effect on the court action against his mother, an action which dragged on for the next 5 years.

"A hearing was finally held in May, 1618. The proceedings continued sporadically for 2 more years, while a case of witchcraft was constructed out of the most fantastic testimony, from some 30 or 40 witnesses. In July, 1620, the order went out to arrest 'the Kepler woman' and if she did not confess, to bring her to torture.

"Kepler in Linz was informed of the crisis by his sister Margarete. He immediately wrote to the Duke of Wurttemberg, declaring that, since he was eternally obligated to his mother by divine and natural rights, he would attend the trial and take an active part in the proceedings himself. This he did, even to writing most of the concluding statement.

"His mother continued her sturdy defiance both during the trial and after she was returned to prison. Loaded with chains, brought into the torture chamber itself and made to look upon the horrible instruments, she still did not break. 'Do with me what you will,' she declared. 'I have nothing to admit.'

"Finally, the Duke decreed that the terror Frau Kepler had undergone during her 14 months imprisonment had invalidated the 'evidence,' and on October 4, 1621, she was released."

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