Johannes Kepler and Twenty-First-Century Science

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1 Scopus citations


Johannes Kepler's little book on the snowflake anticipates one direction of twenty-first-century science. Why do snowflakes all have six corners? Kepler searches for a geometry inscribed in nature, a "formative faculty"that shapes the dynamic patterns of both inorganic and organic forms. A similar search drives modern biotechnology. Twentieth-century science, exemplified by Wolfgang Pauli, had built on principles in tune with those of Kepler's rival, the hermeticist Robert Fludd. Quantum physics is invested in archetypal numbers (such as 137, the fine-structure constant), in unobjectifiability (the impossibility of viewing a world unaffected by the observer), and in action-at-a-distance (effects that can be calculated but whose cause remains unknown). Kepler scorns such principles. Instead he looks for patterns of organization that account for the real world, whether in snowflakes, the heavens, or living bodies. Today that project has been revived in the life sciences, in ecology and ecosystems, in fractal geometry, in nanotech and biotech. Perhaps Kepler's vision of science has come into its own.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-428
Number of pages16
JournalNuncius / Istituto e museo di storia della scienza
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Pauli
  • Snowflakes
  • formative faculty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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