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Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho…
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Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One… (edition 2004)

by Joshua Gilder, Anne-Lee Gilder

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114None105,457 (3.21)5
Member:DoingDewey
Title:Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History's Greatest Scientific Discoveries
Authors:Joshua Gilder
Other authors:Anne-Lee Gilder
Info:Doubleday (2004), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
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Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History's Greatest Scientific Discoveries by Joshua Gilder

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When I very first spotted Heavenly Intrigue on my library shelves, I resisted picking it up because of the blatant sensationalism of the subtitle but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to get a second perspective on the same story. As expected, this book presented a much less detailed overview of Kepler and Brahe’s work than Tycho and Kepler, with a much greater emphasis on interpersonal relationships and drama. It was much easier to follow and I think this would have been the case even if I’d read it first as the book is clearly intended for a broader audience. In addition to glossing over some of the details of the history and the science, there were several cases where the explanations of the instruments Kepler and Tycho used were much clearer and given with fewer astronomy terms.

If asked in advance which book I would like better, I would have guessed that this lighter read might have appealed to me more. Unfortunately, after reading Tycho and Kepler, this book felt a little shallow. I didn’t learn anywhere near as much from this book, which allowed me to breeze by the historical setting, and I felt much less accomplished finishing it. It made me very glad I already knew the full story behind some of the brief references made in this book, for two reasons. First, I knew what I would missing if I hadn’t read the other book first. The second, more troublesome reason, is that knowing the full story let me see where this book selectively left details out or interpreted events differently to cast a more favorable light on Brahe and a less favorable light on Kepler.

I can’t say Heavenly Intrigue wasn’t convincing anyway. It seemed very well researched and included many fascinating quotes from primary sources to back up the claim that Keppler was the most likely person to have murdered Brahe. The analysis of Brahe’s impressive mustache leading to the conclusion he was poisoned with mercury was also presented very convincingly. Unfortunately, this argument was only laid out in the last few chapters, while the majority of the book was spent biasing the reader against Kepler and for Brahe. So, while this was a nice easy read and might make a better introduction to Kepler and Brahe as a result, I would definitely recommend Tycho and Kepler as the more informative and satisfying read. ( )
  DoingDewey | Nov 6, 2012 |
Clearly, to the mass media reader, a murder mystery would be much more compelling than the science of history, let alone that of sixteenth century astronomy.

Early in the book, Heavenly intrigue, the authors, Joshua and Anne-Lee Gilder, juxtapose the two astronomers, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, in such a way that the outcome of their accusation is inevitable: Brahe, the rich aristocrat, is murdered by Kepler, the poor man's son, who aspires the old man's position and data for financial gain.

The authors never tell the reader that there are other theories about Brahe's death, involving the same means, but with another perpetrator, namely his cousin, Eric Brahe. The other flaw seems that the authors impose the modern view of scientific co-operation on the reader, while we do not know and cannot assess the exact nature of the co-operation between Brahe and Kepler. ( )
  edwinbcn | Oct 3, 2011 |
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  davidt8 | Feb 25, 2009 |
Heavenly Intrigue is to history what the nightly news on your local Fox affiliate is to journalism. The authors take an important and complex collaboration between two astronomers and sensationalize it. They portray Johannes Kepler as devious madman bent on obtaining Tycho Brahe's observational data by any means necessary. Brahe is the hard-working aristocrat who takes Keppler under his wing. How far will Keppler go to succeed? What stunning revelations have surfaced about Brahe's death? Watch the News at 10!

I would note that of the authors, one was a magazine editor and the other was a TV reporter/producer. It shows in their careless handling of facts. ( )
2 vote ExVivre | Jun 5, 2006 |
This book sets forth the theory that Tycho Brahe was murdered, and that in fact, Johannes Kepler did it. Gilder traces Kepler's life and his interactions with Brahe. He makes a decent case for Kepler's motive and opportunity, as well as presenting evidence that Brahe's death was indeed murder rather than natural or accidental. ( )
  ursula | Apr 13, 2006 |
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Joshua Gilderprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gilder, Anne-LeeAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385508441, Hardcover)

Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion rank among science's biggest ideas. But did Kepler lie, steal, or even murder for the data he needed to complete his revolutionary calculations? Joshua and Anne-Lee Gilder make this bold claim in Heavenly Intrigue, the story of Kepler's troubled relationship with Tycho Brahe. The astronomers are shown as polar opposites--Kepler the anguished, poor misanthrope and Brahe the blustering young noble on intimate terms with King Frederick II. Since the authors tip their hand early in the book, it's easy to mistake the two men's lives as predestined, their sad fates written in the stars. Kepler, the suspect, is revealed to be consumed with a "constant boiling anger" and beset by illness and unhealed sores. When Kepler and Brahe meet, it is under a dark cloud of misunderstanding that foreshadows later conflicts. Each genius offends the other, publicly and privately: Brahe, holding the money and power, makes Kepler do tedious calculations rather than sponsoring original research, while Kepler demands patronage and lusts after valuable data. When the story is done, the narrative moves quickly to the 20th century. The apocryphal tale of Brahe's demise by burst bladder is systematically countered by researchers who find toxic levels of mercury in hairs from what is presumed to be Brahe's corpse. Did Kepler, who had means, motive, and opportunity, poison Brahe? Readers will either be convinced by the end of the prologue or have lingering doubts about the case's holes that even the authors' certainty can't patch. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:10 -0400)

"Johannes Kepler changed forever our understanding of the universe with his three laws of planetary motion. He demolished the ancient model of planets moving in circular orbits and laid the foundation for the universal law of gravitation, setting physics on the course of revelation it follows to this day. Kepler was one of the greatest astronomers of all time. Yet if it hadn't been for the now lesser-known Tycho Brahe, the man for whom Kepler apprenticed, Kepler would be a mere footnote in today's science books. Brahe was the Imperial Mathematician at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague and the most famous astronomer of his era. He was one of the first great systematic empirical scientists and one of the earliest founders of the modern scientific method. His forty years of planetary observations - an unparalleled treasure of empirical data - contained the key to Kepler's historic breakthrough. But those observations would become available to Kepler only after Brahe's death. This history portrays the turbulent collaboration between these two astronomers at the turn of the seventeenth century and their shattering discoveries that would mark the transition from medieval to modern science."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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