Press Releases Index

September 17, 2004
CONTACT: Tom McLaughlin
Office of University Relations
908-737-NEWS (6397)

Kean Professor Presents Kepler's Witch at
American Museum of Natural History

UNION, N.J. – Dr. James A. Connor, assistant professor of English at Kean University, will deliver a lecture on his critically acclaimed book Kepler’s Witch, as well as on the early days of science during the 17th century, on Monday, September 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center. Connor’s appearance comes courtesy of the museum’s Distinguished Authors in Astronomy program, a lecture series which introduces audiences to authors who have published books in astronomy.

Published in April 2004, Kepler’s Witch, is a fascinating and largely untold biography of Johannes Kepler, 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, revealing 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. For 11 years, Kepler was the imperial mathematician for Rufolf II of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as being the man who took Tycho Brahe’s observational treasure and spun it into gold. He 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, he 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 uncommon faith and courage.

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 and creative writing, as well as 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.

Tickets for the series, which includes four fall and four spring lectures, are $52 for the general public and $44 for museum members, students and seniors. Individual lectures are $14 each. Advance reservations are encouraged and can be made online or by calling the museum’s central reservations services at 212-769-5200. All ticket prices are subject to service charges.

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, is available from HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, in hardcover for $24.95. Visit