Keynote Speakers

Dr Aviva Rothman: Assistant Professor, Department of History, Case Western Reserve University
Dr Günther Oestmann: Extraordinary Professor for the History of Science, Technical University Berlin

The complete list of speakers will be announced after 15th March.

Name: Günther Oestmann

History of Science, Technical University Berlin

Abstract Title: 'Resonances and Repercussions of Kepler's Harmony of the World'

In 1619 the Harmonices mundi libri V was published, which Kepler considered his greatest work. It is well-known and famous for containing the Third Law of Planetary Motion, but book IV deals with his attempt to reform astrology within a Pythagorean-Platonic framework, and here he presented a new understanding of the mechanism of the aspects. Kepler's "astrology of resonance" had repercussions among contemporary astrologers in the 17th century, such as Christopher Heydon, Abdias Trew and Peter Crüger. His ideas of a physical basis for celestial motions were viewed critically however, and in the perspective of the Age of Enlightenment Kepler's speculative approaches, as well as his metaphysical and religious arguments met with skepticism and disapproval. The tide turned in the Romantic Era, when just these aspects came to the fore and paved the way to an edition of Kepler's works. The German philosophers F. W. J. Schelling (1775-1854), E. F. Apelt (1812-1859) and the astronomer J. W. A. Pfaff (1774-1835) played a crucial role in the rediscovery and reappraisal of Kepler. Pfaff worked on a German translation of the Harmonices mundi, and the teacher of mathematics Christian Frisch (1807-1881), who had studied under Pfaff in Erlangen, published the first critical edition of Kepler's works from 1858 to 1871.

Name: Aviva Rothman

Department of History, Case Western Reserve University

Abstract Title: 'Kepler's Vision of Harmony'

Kepler's 1619 Harmonice Mundi was a text that straddled the divide between celestial and terrestrial harmony. It focused on harmony in a variety of aspects-mathematical, musical, astrological, astronomical, and cosmological-while also linking them to Kepler's ultimate goal, the harmony of church and state. This talk will consider Kepler's vision of harmony in the Harmonice Mundi by situating it alongside both traditional conceptions of harmony and the particular seventeenth-century changes that influenced Kepler's own view. It will focus in particular on Kepler's dedication of the Harmonice Mundi to James I of England, and on the political digression he placed at its center. Kepler signaled throughout the book that the harmony of nature could provide a blueprint for harmony in communities on earth, In so doing, however, he positioned himself against the views of Jean Bodin and other theorists who tried to bolster absolutist government with the claim of mathematical certainty, and emphasized instead a vision of communal harmony that allowed for the public good to be achieved via multiple possible configurations, and for diverse perspectives to coexist in one peaceful community.

Name: Ralph Abraham

University of California at Santa Cruz

Name: Pablo Viotti

University of California at Chico

Abstract Title: 'Kepler's Music of the Spheres, a Lecture Demonstration'

We will present stereo audio and video recordings of a computer simulation of Kepler's music, as described in Book V of his Harmonice mundi, with a brief explanation of the concepts and methods of its creation in 2002 and surround-sound performance at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2003. The warbling sounds of the six planets, with the pitch of each scaled to its solar angular velocity according to the second law, will be played separately and together. Astronomical data from 1883 has been used to calculate the pitches of the elliptical orbits. A brief video synchronizes the combined sound with a visual display of the planetary disks, as seen by angels watching from a window in the sun, similar to the view from the moon described in the Somnium.

Name: Maria Blazhevich

Organist, Tomsk State Philharmonic Hall

Abstract Title: 'Kepler's Harmonies of the World: from the Cosmic Cup to the Music of the Spheres'

Seventeenth-century musical culture is famous for its thinkers who wrote comprehensive treatises about the universe and "universal music": Robert Fludd (1574-1637 ), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), and Marin Mersenne (1588-1648). Though the universal worldview of these four philosophers significantly differs, each of them strongly believed in the existence of the Universal Harmony, which defines both the structure of the world and the laws of music. For Kepler, the number that embodies celestial motion, was the embodiment of God, the instrument of the Divine knowledge. Heavenly music, which during earlier eras embodied the absolute musical number, gains a concrete embodiment in the form of sounds written down on a musical staff. According to Kepler, this music is not literally audible (it is possible to hear it only if on the Sun), but it is conceivable intellectually. The music of the spheres can be expressed as a scale: Kepler explores the First and Second laws, discovered by the time the Harmony was written, speaking about the elliptical movement of planets and their irregular rotation. Kepler compares the velocities of the planets at aphelion and perihelion in relation to the Sun, and concludes that these ratios are nearly equivalent to the musical ones. For example, hypothetically, the ratio of the orbit of Saturn (4:5) is subject to the same laws of movement as the sounds of the major third (also a ratio of 4:5).

This lecture focuses on Kepler's concept of the musical number - starting from the number connected to musica instrumentalis and gradually passing to the understanding of the number within musica mundana. The study will examine Kepler's Harmonices Mundi, in which musical laws act as a model of the Universe order. The numerical theory moves from abstract numbers to the samples of the "heavenly music" represented by musical notes.

Name: Nicholas Campion

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Conference Organiser

Abstract Title: 'The Harmonices Mundi as a Utopian Text: Johannes' Kepler's Astrology and the Pursuit of the Perfect Society'

This paper contextualises Kepler's Harmonices Mundi as a utopian text, imagining a perfect society. Modern views of utopianism hold that the attainment of perfection is impossible (e.g. Marcuse), while others consider utopianism, as an ideology, to be 'programmatic' (Campion 2015), meaning that it inspires political and social reform. The term 'utopia' was not coined until the publication of Thomas More's text in 1516, but it is now applied retrospectively to any work which proposes a perfect society, including Plato's Republic, itself a key influence on both More and Kepler.

From a utopian perspective the problem Kepler addressed was that raised by Plato: if, in its essential structure, the cosmos is perfect, how can the all too imperfect world inhabit by human beings, be made to more closely conform to the perfect underlying structure. Kepler's solution was that proposed by Jean Bodin, who he cites extensively on harmonics: that a reformed, empirically-based mundane astrology, consisting solely of planetary cycles, would enable a more accurate prediction of possible crisis points, and so an enhanced ability to deal with such crises. Both Bodin and Kepler were concerned to find ways to deal with the instability caused in Europe by the Reformation and its consequences. A feature of the Platonic model is that, because time corresponds to the eternally circling planets, as soon as perfection is glimpsed it is lost. Nevertheless, perfection - utopia - remains an aspiration. The Harmonices Mundi is therefore more than a cosmological text: it is one of a series of responses to the political crisis in European culture following the Reformation.

Name: Karine Dilanian

Institute for the Study of Cosmology and Astronomy in History, Philosophy and Culture, Conference Organiser

Abstract Title: 'In Search of the Ideal Historical Process - Alexander Chijevsky and Johannes Kepler'

In 1922, a graduate of Moscow Archaeological Institute and Moscow Commercial College, Alexander Leonidovich Chijevsky (1897-1964) published his book Physical Factors of the Historical Process. There Chijevsky presented his concept of correlation of the eleven-year cycles of solar activity to their influence on different terrestrial phenomena, on the earth's biosphere, on the changing in vital processes. He made a detailed historiometrical analysis of the riots, wars, battles, revolutions as well as epidemics and mass cases of mental diseases in the Russian Empire and early USSR and dozens of other countries through all over the world, comparing them to the sunspot activity records for the period 500 BCE to 1922 CE. Chijevsky found that a considerable percentage of the most important historical events involving large numbers of people occurred around sunspot maximum and proposed that human history is influenced by the eleven-year peaks in sunspot activity, triggering humans en masse to act upon existing discontent and dissatisfaction through revolts, revolutions, civil wars and wars between nations. In his article "From Astrology to Cosmic Biology" Chijevsky referred to Kepler's Harmonices Mundi, which he designates as 'the ingenious book' in which Kepler expressed his main idea or 'the corner stone of his philosophy'.

This study considers the influence of Kepler's theory of political cosmology, expressed in his Harmonices Mundi, on Chijevsky's conception of the historical process. Following Kepler, Chijevsky proposed a systematic forecasting approach based on the synchronism between solar activity cycles and social processes. On these grounds, Chijevsky was the first in modern science to put forward the concept that the fate of humankind depends on the fate of the Universe and that the social life of humanity is a planetary phenomenon.

Name: Giora Hon

University of Haifa

Abstract Title: 'Harmony vs Symmetry: Kepler's view and the need for Spielraum'

In a famous passage in De revolutionibus, Copernicus remarked that "in this arrangement [ordinatione] ... we discover a marvellous symmetry of the universe [mundi symmetriam], and an established harmonious linkage [harmoniae nexum] between the motion of the orbs and their size, such as can be found in no other way." Copernicus has brought together two previously distinct aesthetic values: symmetry as proportionality in what is efficient or pleasing to the eye; and harmony as proportionality in what is pleasing to the ear. This is a critical passage where two aesthetic criteria are put to use to capture two different aspects of the universe: its design and its motion. Symmetry captures the design, that is, the relation of the parts (the planetary orbs) to the whole (the Universe), whereas motion (understood as the planetary periods) is linked to size (understood as the planetary distances from the Sun). What was Kepler's view of these two distinct aesthetic criteria? I will report that Kepler did not invoke the criterion of symmetry in any of his writings and appealed only to harmony, but he had a sophisticated view of this concept which required-so my argument goes-a certain degree of freedom which I call Spielraum. This position is in stark opposition to that of Galileo.

Name: Andrey V. Kuzmin

S. I. Vavilov Institute of the History of Science and Technology, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Abstract Title: '"Mathematics of the Cosmos" and "Philosophy of Chaos": On the History of the Polemic between Johannes Kepler and Robert Fludd'

2019 celebrates the 400-year anniversary of the publication of Kepler's Harmonices Mundi. Libri V, which Kepler himself considered his main theoretical work. In the same year, Robert Fludd completed the second volume of his main work, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris... (History of the Micro- and Macrocosm). In an Appendix to the Harmonices mundi Book V, Kepler writes an extremely interesting polemic involving the two great scientists, in which Kepler simultaneously assesses his and his opponent's approach to the description of the Cosmos. While Fludd deals with the whole cosmos (Empyrean, the heavens, elements), Kepler limits his focus to the heavens, especially the movement of the planets through the zodiac. In Kepler's view Fludd, following ancient views, believed that the power of harmonies consists in abstract numbers, that it can be sufficiently established by proving consonance between any parts, in whatever way he describes them in numbers without taking into account what kind of units make up this number. Kepler disagreed with this approach, stating that he never seeks harmony between things that cannot be measured by a single quantitative measure.

Name: Astrid B. Leimlehner

Independent Scholar, Linz, Austria

Abstract Title: 'Johannes Kepler's Psychology and Astrology in Harmonices Mundi
and the Contexts of Public and Private Events'

On the title page of the Harmonices Mundi, Johannes Kepler described Book IV both as 'psychological' and 'astrological'. This is remarkable in two ways. First, Kepler was one of the first scholars in history who used the expression 'psychological'. Its meaning changed through the centuries, and it became more common and frequent only from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. The second striking thing is that Kepler, writing in the early seventeenth century, used 'psychological' and 'astrological' together to describe the same part of his work, whereas this connection between psychological and astrological matters appears more often only from the early twentieth century onwards. It depends, however, on the definitions of 'psychology' and 'astrology' to determine what the connection of these two fields describes. Not only semantic shifts over time, but also varying notions among different authors cause a diversity of meanings. Taking into account Kepler's personal circumstances and public contexts, this paper will explore what he meant by 'psychological' and 'astrological' with a focus on Book IV of the Harmonices Mundi. Part of these considerations will be Kepler's biography following Henri Ellenberger (1905-1993) who repeatedly pointed out in The Discovery of the Unconscious that 'the primary' and 'most immediate source of any creative thinker is his own personality'. In Kepler's case, there is a contrast between the author and his work since Kepler, as someone who experienced many disharmonies in his personal world (for example the deaths of his first wife and several children, or the witch trial against his mother), and was also affected by public disharmonies like the fights between Catholics and Protestants, wrote a book on harmonies in the cosmos - as if he had to counter-balance and cope with his personally experienced disharmonies. The biographical focus will be on Kepler's time in Linz (1612-1626) where he reworked and prepared the Harmonices Mundi for publication. Linz will be presented as a cultural context for Kepler's work.

Name: J. McKim Malville

University of Colorado (Emeritus)

Abstract Title: 'The Harmonious Entanglement of Worlds'

This paper discusses the astronomical and ontological aspects of Kepler's Third Law, first presented in 1619 in his Harmonices Mundi. In the fifth chapter of that book Kepler showed that the six planets known at that time, from Mercury to Saturn, had distances (a) and periods (P) related by a simple equation, a3 = P2, i.e. the cube of the mean distance of a planet from the sun is proportional to the square of its period. Two years later he was able to show that the four brightest moons of Jupiter, discovered by Galileo a little more than a decade earlier, obeyed the same mathematical relation. Then, he demonstrated that his equation applied to different objects and different sizes. At that time, he was remarkably close to determining the mass of Jupiter (and that of Earth) compared to that of the sun. The transit of Mercury in 1631, predicted with greater precision by his equation than any competing model, provided convincing evidence for the correctness of the Third Law. After being modified by Newton, the importance of the Third Law in contemporary astronomy is impossible to overstate. This paper will describe some of its most impressive successes.

Kepler believed in an underlying God-given order of the universe, a deep ontological reality, which should be manifest in its mathematical structures. The Third Law gave Kepler quantitative confirmation of his belief that the universe is coherent not capricious. Planets are not absolutely independent of each other but are integrated in a harmonic whole. This harmony of the planetary system can also be described as the 'entanglement' of the planets. The term entanglement is also prominently applied to the world of quantum mechanics, in which items such as an electron do not have an independent existence. The ontology of Kepler will be contrasted with current thinking about alternate ontologies in physics, anthropology and the humanities.

Name: Jonathan Regier

Ghent University

Abstract Title: 'Seeing by Spirit: Kepler in Ficino's Shadow'

There is a moment in the Harmonice mundi where Kepler describes how the zodiac, at the moment of birth, is imprinted on the animal spirits flowing outward from the freshly kindled fire of the heart. These spirits, not the eyes, are the agents that perceive celestial light. The earth also possesses this kind of astrological perception, as do all living beings. Of course, the reader might wonder how starlight can shine through the body, or how the soul's inner light can do the same. The reader might also note that most children in Kepler's day were born under a roof that would have blocked out any celestial glimmer. Yet all of these objections would be beside the point. Kepler is firmly within a prominent vein of early-modern causality, where medical spirits and celestial forces are equivalent. In my talk, I will discuss how we might situate Kepler within this tradition, whose brightest source is Ficino's De vita, and I will explore the possibility that Kepler's Ficinean inheritance was closely connected to the medical-astrological projects of Rudolf II's court, where Kepler had spent the first decade of the seventeenth century.

Name: Valerie Shrimplin

Gresham College, London

Abstract Title: 'Borromini and the cultural context of the Harmonices Mundi'

The idea of circular domed architecture as imitative of the flat earth covered by the 'Dome of Heaven' was established from Byzantine times to its revival during the Renaissance. Yet the cosmological symbolism of the circle was replaced in early seventeenth-century architecture as elliptical, oval or other geometrically-inspired domes became a key feature of the Baroque. It is argued that the move away from circular to oval or elliptical forms by architects like Borromini might well be related to Kepler's view of elliptical orbits as the basis for the structure of the universe.

Building on his Mysterium Cosmographicum (1596) and the view of perfect, regular nested solids as the basis for the organisation of the planets, Kepler focused on the ellipse as underlying the mechanics of the universe. His realisation that the universe was not based on perfect circular motion but on elliptical orbits (with the sun at one of the foci) was developed in Harmonices Mundi, linked to concepts of harmony and proportion. In turn, the work of the architect Borromini (as at S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane 1638-41 and S. Ivo della Sapienza 1642) involve novel and complex geometric designs that can be linked to Kepler's astronomical ideas. Mathematical precision underlies Borromini's seemingly extravagant schemes, and Kepler's theories might well have had a direct effect on his work.

It is significant that Borromini's patron in Rome was Cardinal Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII) who was well-known for his interest in astronomy. Kepler's mathematical methodology and interpretation of the geometrical structure of the universe may have appealed to Borromini and his patrons on many levels. It cannot be mere coincidence that the use of such mathematical forms in ecclesiastical architecture comes in at around the same times as Kepler's writings.

Images from the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Images from the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo just outside St. Petersburg.

Lampeter Campus

University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Lampeter Campus
Ceredigion SA48 7ED
Tel: 01570 422351

London Campus

University of Wales Trinity Saint David
London Campus, Winchester House
11 Cranmer Road
London, SW9 6EJ
Tel: 0207 566 7600

Follow the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology on Facebook
Follow the Sophia Centre on
Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
The Sophia Centre Press
Follow the Sophia Centre Press on Facebook
The Sophia Centre Press
Follow the conference on Facebook
Contact Us
© 2021 The Sophia Centre