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Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. D. Wrangham   [before 16 September 1880]1

[Mr Darwin

In reading the life of Kepler, I came to the following passage, which I copied, & sent to Mr Darwin. I had the gratification to receive a letter of thanks from him, in his own writing.]2

“Comentaries on the motions of Mars

I beseech my reader, that, not unmindful of the Divine goodness bestowed on man, he do with me praise & celebrate the wisdom & greatness of the Creator, which I open to him from a more inward explanation of the form of the world, from a searching of causes, from a detection of the errors of vision; & that thus, not only in the firmness & stability of the earth, he receive with gratitude, the preservation of all living things as the gift of God, but also that in its motion, so recondite, so admirable, he acknowledge the wisdom of the Creator. But him who is too dull to receive this Science, or too weak to believe the Copernican system without harm to his piety,—let him, I say, I advise that leaving the school of astronomy, & condemning, if he please, any doctrines of the philosophers, he follow his own path, & desist from this wandering through the universe; & lifting up his natural eyes, with which he alone can see, pour himself out in his own heart, in praise of God the Creator; being certain that he gives no less worship to God than the astronomer, to whom God has given to see more clearly with his inward eye, & who, for what he has himself discovered, both can & will glorify God—


The date and the author are established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to B. D. Wrangham, 16 September 1880.
Given the context of Johann Kepler’s life, the source of the quotation was probably Olmsted 1841, pp. 311–12; the passage also appeared in Whewell 1833, pp. 314–15. For the original passage from the introduction to Kepler’s Astronomia nova, see Kepler 1609, pp. [viii–ix].


Kepler, Johannes. 1609. Astronomia nova ΑΙΤΙΟΛΟΓΗΤΟΣ: seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellæ Martis, ex observationibus G. V. Tychonis Brahe. [Heidelberg: G. Voegelinus.]

Olmsted, Denison. 1841. Letters on astronomy, addressed to a lady: in which the elements of the science are familiarly explained in connexion with its literary history. Boston: Marsh, Capen, Lyon, and Webb.

Whewell, William. 1833b. Astronomy and general physics considered with reference to natural theology. London: William Pickering.


An extract from a life of Kepler about the motions of Mars.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartlett Downs Wrangham
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 72756)
Physical description
2pp AC inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12713F,” accessed on 4 March 2024,