“I conclude, therefore, that this star is not some kind of comet or a fiery meteor… but that it is a star shining in the firmament itself one that has never previously been seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world.”
Tycho Ottesen Brahe was born on this day in Knutstrop Castle, Scania, Denmark-Norway in 1546. Today is the 466th anniversary of his birth.
Noble by birth Brahe’s twin brother died before he could be baptized. Tycho’s ode to his dead brother was his first published work. At two his uncle, Jorgen Thygesen Brahe, took him (perhaps kidnapped him) to live at Tosterup Castle, and Tycho became Jorgen’s heir. At 12 he entered the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetorics. There was a solar eclipse in 1560 and young Tycho was fascinated by it. He began studying astronomy. When he started at Leipzig he began to study astronomy without permission…
but was soon forgiven after demonstrating successes. He found that old observations were very inaccurate, and started to design methods and instruments for high-precision measurement of positions of celestial bodies. [TychoBrahe]
From Leipzig he continued his academic pursuits in Germany, studying at Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel. In Rostock he had a famous duel with another student to determine who was the best mathematician.
His nose was cut so badly that for the rest of his life “he covered the scar with a plate probably made of a silver-copper alloy to imitate the colour of the skin.” [Ibid]
During this period his interest in alchemy and astronomy was aroused, and he bought several astronomical instruments.[The Galileo Project]
He returned to Scania and built a laboratory to study chemistry. In November of 1572 he turned his sights to the heavens again and observed …
a new brilliant star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Tycho’s measurements showed that it really was a distant star and not any local phenomena. This was very intriguing at that time, since the sphere of the stars was considered to be divine and perfect, hence no changes ought to take place there. Tycho observed its brightness evolve until it faded away the next year. He reported the event in his book “De stella nova”, which made him famous all over Europe. [TychoBrahe]
With his new found fame he could have studied anywhere in Europe, but he chose to return to his beloved Denmark. King Frederick II granted him the Island of Hven.
“…There he built his observatory, Uraniburg, which became the finest observatory in Europe.” [The Galileo Project] He designed new instruments and developed a nightly program of observations.
The observatory was visited by many scholars, and Tycho trained a generation of young astronomers there in the art of observing. [Ibid]
He left Hven after he had an argument with King Christian IV and, after traveling for several years, wound up in Prague.
Tycho Brahe died 24th October 1601 of a urinary bladder infection. It has long been thought that the cure (a self-induced potion that may have contained lead) was the real culprit. But that has recently been disproved.
- Tycho Brahe (hilobrow.com)
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