In Prague there stands a monument to an odd couple: Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Tycho, the Catholic Dane—by far the more colorful of the two– dabbled in alchemy, wore a prosthetic nose as a result of a wound he received in a duel, and died as a result of a rather infamous drinking binge. In contrast Kepler–the German, Protestant mathematician–was rather dull.
This unlikely pair was brought together by a clash of paradigms. Tycho championed a variation of the old geocentric Ptolemaic view of the universe, while Kepler not only championed the heliocentric Copernican view, he corrected some of its worst errors. Tycho’s strength was in his observations, which he, thankfully, documented quite carefully. But it was Kepler’s mathematical skill and genius at theorizing that enabled him to make sense not only of Tycho’s notes but of the heavens.