"I began to do this a while ago," she writes, "and it gives me much pleasure. First, because I am persuaded that prayer in obedience to Holy Church must be efficacious; secondly, in order to save you the trouble of remembering it. If I had been able to do more, most willingly would I have entered a straiter prison than the one I live in now, if by so doing I could have set you at liberty."
[PLATE: CREST OF GALILEO'S FAMILY.]
Sister Maria Celeste was gradually failing in health, but the great privilege was accorded to her of being able once again to embrace her beloved lord and master. Galileo had, in fact, been permitted to return to his old home; but on the very day when he heard of his daughter's death came the final decree directing him to remain in his own house in perpetual solitude.
Amid the advancing infirmities of age, the isolation from friends, and the loss of his daughter, Galileo once again sought consolation in hard work. He commenced his famous dialogue on Motion. Gradually, however, his sight began to fail, and blindness was at last added to his other troubles. On January 2nd, 1638, he writes to Diodati:--
"Alas, your dear friend and servant, Galileo, has been for the last month perfectly blind, so that this heaven, this earth, this universe which I by my marvellous discoveries and clear demonstrations have enlarged a hundred thousand times beyond the belief of the wise men of bygone ages, henceforward is for me shrunk into such a small space as is filled by my own bodily sensations."
But the end was approaching--the great philosopher, was attacked by low fever, from which he died on the 8th January, 1643.
While the illustrious astronomer, Tycho Brahe, lay on his death-bed, he had an interview which must ever rank as one of the important incidents in the history of science. The life of Tycho had been passed, as we have seen, in the accumulation of vast stores of careful observations of the positions of the heavenly bodies. It was not given to him to deduce from his splendid work the results to which they were destined to lead. It was reserved for another astronomer to distil, so to speak, from the volumes in which Tycho's figures were recorded, the great truths of the universe which those figures contained. Tycho felt that his work required an interpreter, and he recognised in the genius of a young man with whom he was acquainted the agent by whom the world was to be taught some of the great truths of nature. To the bedside of the great Danish astronomer the youthful philosopher was summoned, and with his last breath Tycho besought of him to spare no labour in the performance of those calculations, by which alone the secrets of the movements of the heavens could be revealed. The solemn trust thus imposed was duly accepted, and the man who accepted it bore the immortal name of Kepler.
Kepler was born on the 27th December, 1571, at Weil, in the Duchy of Wurtemberg. It would seem that the circumstances of his childhood must have been singularly unhappy. His father, sprung from a well-connected family, was but a shiftless and idle adventurer; nor was the great astronomer much more fortunate in his other parent. His mother was an ignorant and ill-tempered woman; indeed, the ill-assorted union came to an abrupt end through the desertion of the wife by her husband when their eldest son John, the hero of our present sketch, was eighteen years old. The childhood of this lad, destined for such fame, was still further embittered by the circumstance that when he was four years old he had a severe attack of small-pox. Not only was his eyesight permanently injured, but even his constitution appears to have been much weakened by this terrible malady.
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