Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tycho Brahe: A Brilliant Astronomer Who Died From Holding His Pee

Tycho Brahe studied the stars
with the help of his epic mustache
Tycho Brahe was a Danish astronomer that spent his life developing new tools for his trade and disproving the calculations of famed astronomers who came before him. He also botched a few calculations of his own. He spent most of his life studying astronomy and building a reputation as a skilled mathematician. He was also rumored to be a heavy drinker and a man who threw really crazy parties.

Tycho Brahe was born into a noble Danish family in 1546. He was one of a set of twins, but his twin died during infancy. When he was very young, his uncle Jorgen took Tycho to live with he and his wife. The reason for this is unknown and difficult to discern. Both of his parents were alive and they were very wealthy. It seems strange that they would just hand their eldest son over, but that is what they did. Tycho resided in Tostrup Castle with his aunt and uncle until he was six years old. At that time, the boy and his foster parents moved to Vordingborg Castle.

While living in Vordingsburg Castle, Tycho Brahe attended a local school. At the age of twelve, he began attending the University of Copenhagen, where he studied law and developed his love of astronomy. He graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1562 and left Denmark to travel in Germany.While in Germany, Tycho studied at various universities, including, Leipzig, Rostock and Wittenberg. During his school years, Tycho Brahe began studying astronomy in earnest. Before he was even seventeen years old, he had predicted the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter with more accuracy than both Ptolemy and Copernicus.

In 1565 Tycho Brahe’s living situation changed when his uncle died and his parents decided to assume responsibility for their son again. Nonetheless, Tycho continued his schooling. In 1566, while at Rostock, Tycho got into a duel with a classmate. A portion of his nose was lost in the fight. He had a prosthetic made the following year. He wore one from then on.

Tycho Brahe fell in love with a commoner by the name of Kirsten Jorgensdatter in 1572. The couple could not marry because of Kirsten’s lack of noble blood. However, Tycho had her come live with him. They eventually had six surviving children together. Unfortunately, none of them were able to inherit any of Brahe’s property, despite his protestations, because they were illegitimate.

Four years after Tycho Brahe met Kirsten Jorgensdatter, King Frederick II offered Tycho a fief on Hven Island and he took it. Brahe built an observatory there, which he named Uraniborg. He developed many tools for his craft and made many brilliant observations over the course of his career. He also published various accounts, catalogs and theories. He built a second observatory adjacent to Uraniborg in 1584as he had run out of room for his tools.

Tycho Brahe left Denmark and moved to a location near Prague when he was given a position as the Imperial Mathematician by Emperor Rudolph III. Johannes Kepler became his assistant there the following year. Tycho died not long after his appointment. He got uraemia as a result of holding his urine too long at the dinner table after drinking a great deal in 1601.


Tycho Brahe, retrieved 12/6/09,

O’Connor, J.J & Robertson, E.F., Tycho Brahe, retrieved 12/6/09,

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