Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer, played a key role in the scientific revolution of the Renaissance. Best known for his postulation of the laws of planetary motion, Kepler, who also made strides in areas such as optics and refracting telescopes, brought aspects of religious reasoning into his scientific studies.

Kepler's laws of planetary motion paved the way for many advancements in the field of astronomy. The first law proposes an elliptical orbit for every planet with the sun at one focus, and the second states that a radius drawn from the center of the sun to a planet sweeps equal areas in equal amounts of time. The third law states that the squares of the revolution times of two planets around the sun are related to each other as the cubes of the average distances from the sun (Cajori 393). A pioneer in his field, Kepler challenged the theories of some of the earliest Greek astronomers, including Aristotle and Ptolemy. However, besides the groundbreaking significance of many of his largest finds, one of Kepler's most noted attributes was his ability to weave religious connotations into his experimental findings.

Kepler believed that "God created the world according to an intelligible plan that is accessible through the natural light of reason" (Wikipedia). Interestingly, this idea directly relates to the reference that Carlyle makes to Kepler in "Signs of the Times." Carlyle argues that human intelligence, especially intelligence in the natural sciences, should be regarded as a gift bestowed upon humankind by nature, and God. To some extent, Carlyle states that a higher power deserves the credit for much of the ingenuity of human beings, and it appears that Kepler would agree with such a statement as well. Kepler provides a well known example with which to explain the idea of intelligence as a gift from nature, and not an innate talent shared among all human beings.


Cajori, Florian. "Johannes Kepler, 1571-1630." The Scientific Monthly. American Association for the Advancement of Science 30, No.5. (385-393).

"Johannes Kepler." Wikipedia. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation. 30 March 2009

Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Thomas Carlyle's Works Discussion Questions

Last modified 30 March 2009