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Kepler as chronologer

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Historical chronology was one of Kepler’s favourite subjects, after astronomy, optics and music. He devoted considerable effort to mastering its materials and methods, corresponded about its central problems with Protestant and Catholic scholars, and wrote about it at some length. In many ways, his mastery of astronomy and considerable prowess as a humanist made him an ideal chronologer, and he arrived at some findings of great interest. But he also found chronology a particularly contentious field, one that tested scholarly civility to its limit and sometimes beyond. In this paper I will locate Kepler’s work in the interlocking, but not identical, fields that were referred to, in his time, by the single name of chronology. Then I will examine some of the striking ways in which the larger ethical and methodological ideas often associated with the Republic of Letters played out in what seems, from the outside, a very abstract and austere study.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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