The man who sought harmony in the cosmos was fated to live at a time of exceptional discord on Earth. Exactly eight days after Kepler’s discovery of his third law, there occurred in Prague an incident that unleashed the devastating 30 years war. The war’s convulsions shattered the lives of millions of people. Kepler lost his wife and young son to an epidemic spread by the soldiery. His royal patron was deposed, and he was excommunicated from the Lutheran church for his uncompromising independence on questions of belief. He was a refugee once again. The conflict, portrayed on booths sides as a holy war, was more an exploitation of religious bigotry by those hungry for land and power. This war introduced organized pillage to keep armies in the field. The brutalized population of Europe stood by helpless as as their plowshares and pruning hooks were literally beaten into swords and spears. Rumour and paranoia swept through the countryside, enveloping especially the powerless. Among the many scapegoats chosen were elderly women living alone, who were charged with witchcraft. Kepler’s mother was taken away in the middle of the night in a laundry chest. It took Kepler six years of unremitting effort to save her life. In Kepler’s little hometown, about three women were arrested, tortured, and killed as witches every year between 1615 and 1629. And Katharina Kepler was a cantankerous old woman. She engaged in disputes which annoyed the local mobility, and she sold drugs. Poor Kepler thought that he himself had contributed inadvertently to his mother’s arrest. It came about because he had written one of the first works of science fiction. It was intended to explain and popularize science and was called ‘Somnium’ - ‘The Dream’.
-Carl Sagan on Kepler’s life during the 30 years war. [Cosmos Ep. 3]