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Johannes Kepler

Becoming an Astronomer

Growing Up

Becoming an Astronomer, page 2

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Neither of Kepler's parents were interested enough in their oldest son or his future to invest much effort into his education. Fortunately, the region of Germany in which Kepler lived was known for its strong educational system. The schools encouraged students from all economic classes and offered scholarships to those who could not afford tuition. Kepler was launched into academics at an early age.

In elementary school, Kepler learned Latin, which was then considered to be the only language fit for scholarly writing. Due to his frequent illnesses and his family's wanderings, Kepler was unable to attend school consistently – it took him twice as long to finish elementary school as it took the other children. When he was thirteen years old, he entered a theological seminary. There he studied Greek, Latin, theology, rhetoric, music, and math.

According to his own reminiscences, Kepler was a weak, odd, unlikable student who often got bullied and beat up by his peers. But Kepler's enemies were no harsher on him than he was on himself. In his later self-analysis, written in third person, Kepler noted the "dog-like nature" of both his appearance and personality, and added that "morally he was the worst among his contemporaries."

From the theological seminary, Kepler went on to the renowned University of Tuebingen, where he decided to continue his religious studies. He got perfect grades – as did almost every other student at the school. He was successful in his math and physics classes, but decided to devote his life to God.

Before he could earn his graduate degree in divinity, Kepler recieved an unexpected job offer. A Protestant school in the Austrian city of Gratz was in need of a new math professor – and the University of Tuebingen recommended Kepler. Kepler was at first reluctant to accept the job, primarily because he didn't think he was cut out to be an astronomer. He eventually accepted, on the condition that he would be allowed to return to Tuebingen to complete his divinity studies when he wanted to. Tuebingen agreed, but Kepler never returned. He was an astronomer for life.

Kepler arrived in Gratz in April 1594, where he was officially appointed the Mathematicus of the Province. He didn't expect to be a particularly good teacher. From the start, few wanted to take his class, by his second year of teaching, he had no students.

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