December 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Johannes Kepler and Louis Pasteur

Two giants of science were born on this day (251 years apart!).

In 1571, Johannes Kepler was born in Germany. His claim to gigantic-ness—he is even called the Father of Modern Astronomy!— is that he figured out that the planets travel in elliptical (oval-shaped) orbits rather than round orbits, and he figured out three major laws of planetary motion. Sir Isaac Newton's law of gravitation had their genesis in Kepler's laws. Kepler also suggested that the tides were caused by the attraction of the moon. All of that is pretty gigantic!

In 1822, Louis Pasteur was born in France. His claim to gigantic-ality—he is considered one of the founders of microbiology!—is that he discovered much about causes and preventions of diseases: he developed the first vaccine for rabies and anthrax, invented pasteurization of milk, and discovered the role of bacteria in fermentation and was therefore able to improve the manufacture of wine.

For more on Kepler's Three Laws, try Carl Sagan's “Cosmos”...

The Science Channel's “Greatest Discoveries” has a segment on Louis Pasteur...

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