These are the motions of Mars!

Concerning Georg Jocachim Rheticus, the well-famed disciple of Copernicus in our forefather's days ... the following story is told: when on one occasion he became perplexed and got stuck in the theory of Mars and could no longer see his way out, he appealed as a last resort to his guardian angel as an Oracle. The ungracious spirit thereupon seized Rheticus by the hair and alternately banged his head against the ceiling, then let his body down and crashed it against the floor, to which treatment he added the following oracular pronouncement: `These are the motions of Mars!' Rumor has an evil tongue ... yet one can very well believe that Rheticus, his mind deranged by deadlocked speculation, rose in a rage and himself crashed his head against the wall.

-- Johannes Kepler

Quoted by Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers (Peregrine Books, London, 1988), p. 164

Joshua E. Barnes (

Last modified: August 20, 2003