Kepler and Gravitation Summary Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630) was greatly impressed by the beauty of the heavens. Using the framework devised by Nicholas Copernicus and meticulous observations he devised three laws from which the motion of the planets could be calculated. Although Kepler had no understanding of why the planets moved in the way they did, his laws are largely correct. They are of great significance for the study of gravitation because the fundamental principles of planetary motion can easily be understood from them. Moreover, these laws formed the background to Newton 's thinking about planet interaction and the relationship between masses which led to his Universal Law of Gravitation. Kepler's First Law states that the path of the planet is an ellipse with the sun at one focus. Although at the time it was commonly understood that the planets moved in circles around the sun, Kepler's data showed this belief to be erroneous. Only by understanding that orbits are elliptical can we begin to explain many of the observed phenomena of planetary motion.
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