The extraordinary, unlikely tale of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler and their enormous contribution to astronomy and understanding of the cosmos is one of the strangest stories in the history of science.
Kepler was a poor, devoutly religious teacher with a genius for mathematics. Brahe was an arrogant, extravagant aristocrat who possessed the finest astronomical instruments and observations of the time, before the telescope. Both espoused theories that seem off-the-wall to modern minds, but their fateful meeting in Prague in 1600 was to change the future of science.
Set in one of the most turbulent and colourful eras in European history, when medieval was giving way to modern, Tycho and Kepler is a double biography of these two remarkable men.
Kitty Ferguson has written a book that has romance, love, sword fighting, murder, deception, betrayal, trust gone wrong, incredible riches, amazing poverty, reaching for the stars and abject failure... and it’s all one hundred percent true, the most fascinating read about two incredibly interesting people!
In Tycho and Kepler, we are given the sense of science as a quintessentially human activity, conducted not by disembodied spirits squirreled away in ivory towers but by living, breathing, and distinctly idiosyncratic subjects.
Ferguson doesn’t short-change her readers on the wonder-working details of 16th century European science and astronomy, which was then still close to alchemy and astrology. She is good on the profound differences in character between the rich, lordly astronomer Brahe and the poverty-stricken, middle-class mathematician Johannes Kepler, the differences between Brahe’s observational and technical obsessions and Kepler’s modest, seemingly simple-minded, genius that nagged at questions we take for granted now but which outraged his contemporaries. By putting together Brahe as Smaug the dragon sitting on a fabulous golden hoard with Kepler as Bilbo Baggins who wrests the treasure from him, and expounding the science with conscientious clarity, Kitty Ferguson has written an absorbing non-fiction fable that simultaneously stimulates our imagination and satisfies our scientific curiosity.
Her skill in explaining complex astronomical problems and procedures clearly and succinctly is nothing short of amazing.
Stephen Hawking’s name is well known throughout the world but considerably fewer people are aware of the true scale of the impact he had on science and how that has influenced our wider world. Kitty Ferguson reflects on the time they spent together and the impact that his legacy still has today.