Press Releases Index

March 9, 2004
CONTACT: Faith Jackson
Office of University Relations

Kean Professor Pens Groundbreaking Book about Johannes Kepler

UNION, N.J. – – Dr. James A. Connor, assistant professor of English at Kean University, has written Kepler’s Witch, a fascinating and largely untold biography of Johannes Kepler (1511-1630), an icon of the modern age. Set against the backdrop of the witchcraft trial of his mother, Katharina, this story is filled with crooked judges, bigoted tribunals, sadistic bailiffs, and a jumble of nasty neighbors bent on the destruction of a strange little woman who, like Kepler himself, was too smart for the world she lived in. Kepler’s Witch vividly brings to life the tidal forces of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and submerges us into these turbulent times. It reveals not only the surprisingly spiritual nature of early modern science, but also Kepler’s role as a neglected hero of conscience.

Connor has translated witchcraft trial records, testimonies, Kepler’s diary entries and correspondence into English for the first time, revealing him to be a man worth knowing. Born in Wittenberg – a city in what is now Germany – under the dominion of the Holy Roman Empire, Kepler was the imperial mathematician to Emperor Rudolf II for 11 years. He took the Danish Tycho Brahe’s observational treasure and spun it into gold, confirmed the Copernican universe and laid the foundation for Newton’s physics. He calculated the true shape of the solar system and discovered the three basic laws of planetary motion, and, along the way, discovered how a telescope works, why snowflakes are shaped the way they are, and how to properly measure wine in a barrel. Concerned with more than scientific discoveries and achievements, Kepler fought for peace and reconciliation between the Christian churches, even when it nearly cost him his life. Exiled twice by Catholic princes and excommunicated by his fellow Lutherans, he was unbowed in his scientific and moral vision. With a great respect for the history of these times and the life of this man, Connor’s unforgettable story illuminates Kepler as a man of exceptional faith and courage.

Due for release in April, 2004, the book has already received acclaim from many authors and critics. "Based on deep research, James A. Connor's skillful narrative brings to life a fascinating time of changing cosmologies and an extraordinary man who wanted to know the mind of God," said Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kenneth Silverman. And the writer Michael Gurian hailed, “I found in Kepler’s Witch the kind of historical story telling that kept me turning the pages. I haven’t read anything this good since Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter.”

Dr. James A. Connor is a former Jesuit priest who has been teaching at Kean University since 1999. He has also held teaching posts at St. Louis University and Gonzaga University. The author of God’s Breath and Other Stories and the spiritual memoir Silent Fire, Connor holds degrees in geoscience, philosophy, theology, creative writing, and a doctorate in literature and science. He has studied with writers such as Frank Conroy and is a prize-winning essayist published widely in such places as American Book Review; Traditional Home Magazine; Willow Springs; The Critic; The Iowa Review; and The Iowa Journal of Literary Studies. The Kepler Society in Germany (Kepler Gesellschaft) has invited Connor to found the American Kepler Society concurrent with the publication of Kepler’s Witch.

Kepler’s Witch: An Astronomer’s Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother by James A. Connor, ISBN: 0-06-052255-0, will be available from HarperSanFrancisco, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers Hardcover, for $24.95 in April 2004. Visit to pre-order.