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Legendary Medieval Astronomer's Horoscope Discovered

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  • Jeroen Kumeling
    Legendary Medieval Astronomer s Horoscope Discovered By Dr. David Whitehouse BBC News Online Science Editor 3-5-99 A horoscope drawn by one of the greatest
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 1999
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      Legendary Medieval Astronomer's Horoscope Discovered

      By Dr. David Whitehouse

      BBC News Online Science Editor


      A horoscope drawn by one of the greatest astronomers who ever lived has
      been rediscovered in California.

      The 400-year-old manuscript is by Johannes Kepler who, with his laws of
      planetary motion, laid the foundation for modern astronomy. It was found
      among a collection of astronomical papers in the archives of the University
      of California at Santa Cruz.

      Kepler may have been sceptical about horoscopes but they were a profitable
      sideline. The newly-found manuscript is a horoscope for an Austrian

      It was discovered by Anthony Misch, an astronomer at Lick Observatory. He
      was researching solar eclipse expeditions in the University Library
      archives when he unearthed the unassuming six-by-eight-inch framed paper.

      "It was a pretty thrilling moment," Misch said. "I knew right away this had
      potential to be a pretty spectacular discovery. As I looked the document
      over my hand was shaking."

      The document tells of the birth of an Austrian nobleman named Hans Hannibal
      H�tter von H�tterhofen in 1586. The horoscope drawn for the child by Kepler
      is a complicated weaving of signs and zodiacal symbols.

      Kepler lived in an age when astronomy and astrology were closely linked.
      Throughout his life Kepler's attitude to astrology was ambiguous. He cast
      horoscopes as part of his official duties as a court astronomer, as well as
      to earn a little extra money.

      He once wrote, "God provides for every animal his means of sustenance - for
      an astronomer he has provided astrology."

      All-time great

      Along with Copernicus and Galileo, Kepler ranks among the most important
      astronomers of the modern era.

      "To have anything in the hand of Kepler is of itself valuable, just because
      of who he is," Misch says.

      Once the initial elation of Misch's discovery wore off, there was the
      question of how the manuscript came to be at UCSC in the first place.

      UCSC librarian Alan Ritch says: "Anthony's sleuthing led him to an article
      on Kepler in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific,
      dated December 1, 1896."

      The article was written by Lick Observatory's first director, Edward S.
      Holden, and while much of the article is conventional biography, one
      portion is not.

      Kept the wolf from the door

      That portion reads: "A short while ago a manuscript of Kepler's was offered
      for sale in Germany, and it was at once secured for the collection of the
      Lick Observatory. .

      "At first sight one might think that some other piece of manuscript would
      be more desirable for the collection of an astronomical observatory.

      "What value could be assigned, for instance, to the scrap of paper on which
      the master verified his guess as to the third law of motion?

      "But nothing is more suitable to recall the personality of Kepler than this
      piece of astrology, by means of which he kept the wolf from the door, and
      purchased the strength and leisure for higher things."
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