Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In 1615,

In 1615, Ursula Reingold, a woman in a financial dispute with Kepler's brother Cristoph, claimed Kepler's mother Katharina had made her sick with an evil brew. The dispute escalated, and in 1617, Katharina was accused of witchcraft; witchcraft trials were relatively common in central Europe at this time. Beginning in August 1620 she was imprisoned for fourteen months. She was released in October 1621, thanks in part to the extensive legal defense drawn up by Kepler. The accusers had no stronger evidence than rumors, along with a distorted, second-hand version of Kepler's Somnium, in which a woman mixes potions and enlists the aid of a demon. However, Katharina was subjected to territio verbalis, a graphic description of the torture awaiting her as a witch, in a final attempt to make her confess. Throughout the trial, Kepler postponed his other work to focus on his "harmonic theory". The result, published in 1619, was Harmonices Mundi ("Harmony of the Worlds").

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