Tycho Brahe, one of the most influential and vital astronomers of the 16th century. Often overlooked with the focus more on Johannes Kepler, this post is devoted solely the life and achievements of Tycho Brahe.
Brahe was born December 14th 1546 in Scania, Denmark. At a very early age, Brahe’s childless uncle abducted him. Tycho’s uncle was very wealthy and funded his education, Law at the University of Copenhagen.
Whilst studying Law, the eclipse of the sun in 1560 lit the spark for Tycho’s ambitions. He quickly got his hands on the only astronomy book he could find, ‘The Almagest of Ptolemy’.
In 1562 Tycho’s uncle sent him to study at the University of Leipzig until 1565. In August 1563 Tycho made his first recorded observation, a conjunction (overlapping) of Jupiter and Saturn. He found that the existing tools to record stellar and planetary positions were deeply inaccurate, some were even days off the event. Tycho decided to accumulate accurate observations of the sky for the rest of his life.
Throughout 1565 and 1570 Tycho ventured around Europe studying at Wittenberg, Rostock, Basel and Augsburg. In 1566, while studying at the University of Rostock, Tycho got into a duel with a student there (Manderup Parsberg, his third cousin). He lost his nose but got it replaced by an artificial nose consisting of brass. Afterwards, however, Parsberg and Tycho became friends.
After inheriting the land and estates of his father and uncle, he constructed a small observatory in 1571. However, on November 11, 1572, Tycho saw a ‘new star’. It was brighter than Venus and where no star was meant to be. He proved that it laid in the region of fixed stars and this imperfection in the night sky helped prove the Copernican model of the solar system. This ‘new star’ was in fact a supernova and could be seen by the unaided eye until March two years later.
After Tycho expressed interest in moving to Germany to build a larger observatory, King Frederick II of Denmark gave Tycho the island of Ven (formerly Hven) in 1576.
Tycho named his new observatory Uraniborg after Urania, the Muse of astronomy. This observatory was lavishly decorated with his pet moose also taking residence here (although the moose died in 1591, after getting drunk and falling down the stairs).
After King Frederick II died and with his funding running low Tycho decided to leave Ven in 1597. He settled in Prague and tried to continue his observations but after an unsuccessful 4 years, Tycho Brahe died after not going to the lavatory during a dinner party. He deemed it as rude and later developed a deadly bladder infection. He left all of his observation data to Kepler, his student, who later discovered the 3 Laws of Planetary Motion.