400-Year-Old Horoscope Found
Mar. 04, 1999
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A 400-year-old horoscope that was written for an Austrian nobleman by the astronomer Johannes Kepler himself was discovered in a drawer at a University of California at Santa Cruz archive.
The document, written in a flowery hand by the man who helped discover the laws of orbital motion, was located by astronomer Anthony Misch in December while he was researching solar eclipse expeditions.
It's not clear exactly what Kepler was predicting for the life of Hans Hannibal Hutter von Hutterhofen, who was born in 1586.
``Whether it said to collect your taxes from your serfs tomorrow or don't put your money on the Holy Roman Empire, I don't know,'' Misch said Thursday.
The document includes the nobleman's date and time of birth in German, as well as a sepia-colored diamond with an X through it enclosed by a square. It is signed by another eminent astronomer, Wilhelm Struve, declaring that the horoscope is written ``in the hand of Kepler, from the collection of Kepler Manuscripts in Pulkova.''
The Pulkova observatory was founded near St. Petersburg, Russia, in the early 1800s. Struve signed the manuscript in 1864.
``It was completely unexpected. It was a very, very exciting thing for me to discover it because I am a collector and an amateur historian,'' Misch said. ``It made me tremble a bit to find something like that.''
Misch sent the 4-by-6-inch manuscript, still in excellent condition after being backed in construction paper and preserved in ``a real cheap little frame,'' to an autograph specialist in Berlin.
``He wrote back very promptly and said, `Congratulations, you have a Kepler,''' Misch said.
The university's Lick Observatory apparently bought the horoscope in Germany in the late 1800s, according to a journal of the time.
Kepler was the imperial mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II. His discoveries that planetary orbits were elliptical and that planets speed up when they get closer to the sun laid the groundwork for Sir Isaac Newton's theory of gravity a half-century later.
But did Kepler really believe in astrology?
``He didn't apparently believe in the daily influence of the planets on people's lives,'' Misch said. ``But he was very much of a mystic, with one foot in medieval times and one foot in the scientific method.''