The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler’s Fight for His Mother
by Ulinka Rublack
Oxford University Press, 2015 (($29.95))
Johannes Kepler was a renowned 17th-century German astronomer, mathematician, natural philosopher … and lawyer? Although he is not known for the last occupation, in 1620 he put his work on hold, packed up his household and moved back home to Württemberg, Germany, to defend his mother in court on charges of witchcraft. Historian Rublack uses the facts of the case to explore the intellectual, political and religious turmoil going on at that time in Europe, as well as the complexities of Kepler's own beliefs, which encompassed both scientific rationalism alongside the possibility of magic: while maintaining that witches did exist, he insisted that there was no evidence his mother was one. This surprising chapter in Kepler's life offers a window to better understand the famous genius and the world that created him.