Legendary Medieval Astronomer's Horoscope Discovered
- 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."
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."