web metrics


Tycho Brahe was born on 14th December 1546 at the castle of Knutstorp in Scania. His parents, Otte Brahe and Beate Bille, belonged to the highest-ranked nobility in Denmark, and several of his relatives served the king as advisers and warriors. He was brought up by his paternal uncle Jörgen Brahe and his wife Inger Oxe at the castle of Tosterup.

At the age of 13, Tycho was sent to the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetorics. A solar eclipse 1560 awoke his interest in astronomy, and he began reading books on the subject. He attended the universities of Leipzig, Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel to study law, humanities and science. In Leipzig he started astronomical studies 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.

During his time in Rostock he had a controversy with another student over who was the best mathematician. This resulted in a duel where he got a deep wound in his nose. The rest of his life he covered the scar with a plate probably made of a silver-copper alloy to imitate the color of the skin. The other student was a cousin and true to Tycho's nature, they soon forgot their differences and became fast friends.

In 1570 Tycho returned to Scania. He spent long periods of time at Herrevadskloster which was owned by his maternal uncle Steen Bille. He built a laboratory there and became absorbed in the study of alchemy (chemistry). On 11 November 1572 he 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.

Picture of Tycho's Great Quadrant Mural Because of this, Tycho was given the island of Hven in the sound between Denmark and Scania as a fief, and additionally the incomes from a number of estates. In return Tycho was to build his observatory on Hven, and conduct an ambitious scientific program. There he built the best equipment and performed the most accurate naked-eye (the telescope was yet to be invented) position measurements of the planets, especially Mars. However, a long, protracted court case against a man who was shown Tycho's geocentric model of the universe (pictured at the bottom of the page), in confidence, and who then published it as his own idea, made Tycho very protective of his data.

After the death of the king who supported him, jealous noblemen and scientists, who resented the money spent for "frivolous" research, fought Tycho in court. In 1597 Tycho was forced to leave Denmark. He went into exile in Prague, and was appointed imperial astronomer by Emperor Rudolph II. The Emperor gave him Benatky Castle to live in. Tycho took with him his printing press and his instruments, and continued his observations. He chose Johann Kepler to be his assistant. Kepler's less than stirling character was at odds with Tycho's sense of ethics, not to mention Tycho's insistence that although Kepler could see and use his data, Kepler could neither publish it nor copy it until it was ready for publication.

Tycho Brahe died 24th October 1601. The cause of death has been a hot point of controversy for centuries. Brahe's detractors caim he died of a burst bladder because he was too proud to relieve himself of his liquor at a party. That cause had been shown to be impossible. Others have postulated that he died of a urinary bladder infection that he may have tried to cure himself, with a medicine containing mercury. The latter explanation has come about because of florensic evidence produced by a Swedish lab in the early 1990s. The lab found a spike in mercury abundance in one of Tycho's hairs. The time correspended to Tycho's first illness, at the party. It is unlikely that he would purposely drink mercury in a dose that would be lethal to the average man in the presense of a same party he would not leave to relieve himself. Another hair, the only one with its root still attached was tested years later. It also showed the aforementioned mercury spike, but it also showed an even larger spike a few hours before his death. It seems very likely that he was poisoned, and the only one who stood to gain anything from his death was Johannes Kepler. Though some claim Kepler was away and could not have murdered Tycho, nevertheless, he managed to steal much of Tycho's data, including all of the Mars data, right out from under the family's noses. In court, Kepler lost and returned all the data except the Mars data wich he had coveted so long.

Joshua and Ann-Lee Gilder wrote a book examining the florensic and circumstantial evidence around the death of Tycho Brahe. They confirmed what Dr. Bouw suspected after reading Kepler's preface to the book in which he announced the discovery of elliptical orbits, and which suspicion he voiced in his 1994 book, Geocentricity, that Kepler may have murdered Tycho. The Gilders' book, Heavenly Intrigue, is available from Amazon.com.

Picture of Tycho's geocentric model At right is a model of Tycho's cosmology, in which the planets orbit the sun, and the sun carries them along in its cycle around the earth. It is similar to the Modified Tychonic Model espoused by many members of the Association. The modified model differs from Tycho's in that the stars are centered on the sun, not the earth, and so they also trace out the yearly cycle about Earth. This explains parallax and aberration and other yearly effects which are not explained in Tycho's original model.

See the Geocentricity page for more information and illustrations.