In 1607 Kepler rushed into print with an alleged observation of Mercury crossing the sun, but after Galileo’s discovery of sun-spots, Kepler at once cheerfully retracted his observation of “Mercury,” and so far was he from being annoyed or bigoted in his views, that he warmly adopted Galileo’s side, in contrast to most of those whose opinions were liable to be overthrown by the new discoveries. Maestlin and others of Kepler’s friends took the opposite view.
When Gilbert of Colchester, in his “New Philosophy,” founded on his researches in magnetism, was dealing with tides, he did not suggest that the moon attracted the water, but that “subterranean spirits and humours, rising in sympathy with the moon, cause the sea also to rise and flow to the shores and up rivers”. It appears that an idea, presented in some such way as this, was more readily received than a plain statement. This so-called philosophical method was, in fact, very generally applied, and Kepler, who shared Galileo’s admiration for Gilbert’s work, adopted it in his own attempt to extend the idea of magnetic attraction to the planets. The general idea of “gravity” opposed the hypothesis of the rotation of the earth on the ground that loose objects would fly off: moreover, the latest refinements of the old system of planetary motions necessitated their orbits being described about a mere empty point. Kepler very strongly combated these notions, pointing out the absurdity of the conclusions to which they tended, and proceeded in set terms to describe his own theory.
“Every corporeal substance, so far forth as it is corporeal, has a natural fitness for resting in every place where it may be situated by itself beyond the sphere of influence of a body cognate with it. Gravity is a mutual affection between cognate bodies towards union or conjunction (similar in kind to the magnetic virtue), so that the earth attracts a stone much rather than the stone seeks the earth. Heavy bodies (if we begin by assuming the earth to be in the centre of the world) are not carried to the centre of the world in its quality of centre of the world, but as to the centre of a cognate round body, namely, the earth; so that wheresoever the earth may be placed, or whithersoever it may be carried by its animal faculty, heavy bodies will always be carried towards it. If the earth were not round, heavy bodies would not tend from every side in a straight line towards the centre of the earth, but to different points from different sides. If two stones were placed in any part of the world near each other, and beyond the sphere of influence of a third cognate body, these stones, like two magnetic needles, would come together in the intermediate point, each approaching the other by a space proportional to the comparative mass of the other. If the moon and earth were not retained in their orbits by their animal force