Bizarre Facts About Tycho Brahe

CULTURE | July 8, 2019

Tycho Brahe. Source: (thefamouspeople.com)

Tycho Brahe was a Danish astronomer whose observations laid the groundwork for the likes of Sir Isaac Newton. As a scientist, his work was unprecedented. But there are a few details about his life that are unexpected. Some are even downright bizarre.

He was Raised by His Kidnapper

Tycho Ottesen Brahe was born on December 14, 1546, in Knudstrup, Scania, Denmark, to a wealthy family. His father, Otte Brahe, was a privy councilor, and his mother, Beate Bille, was an aristocrat. Brahe was the second of twelve children born to the couple. It’s not that unusual that he was kidnapped as a young child by his uncle and aunt, Jorgen Brahe and Inger Oxe. After all, family members are usually the most likely suspects in a kidnapping case and Jorgen was in need of an heir as he had no children of his own. The strange part is that Brahe’s parents let Jorgen keep him and raise him at his castle in Tostrup, Scania. Perhaps with twelve children, they decided they could spare one. Ironically, Jorgen would die in 1565 without making Brahe his legal heir, therefore, Brahe received nothing from his estate.

University of Copenhagen city campus. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

He was an Academic in a Military Family

It was a tradition in the Brahe family that the male children would become warriors. But Inger, who came from an academic family, persuaded her husband that their abductee deserved an education. He began school at the age of six and moved on to study law at the University of Copenhagen in 1559, at the age of twelve.

Solar Eclipse. Source: (Wikipedia.org)

A Solar Eclipse Changed His Life

While at the University of Copenhagen, Brahe witnessed the solar eclipse of August 21,

1560. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular eclipse from his viewpoint in Copenhagen as less than half of the sun was covered. Nevertheless, Tycho was intrigued by the fact that astronomers had managed to predict when the eclipse would occur. It was this event which led to his interest in astronomy.

Silver-plated artificial nose. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

He had a Prosthetic Nose

In April 1566, while studying at the University of Rostock, Brahe got into an argument with another student. Brahe was a bit of a hothead, which may shed some light on why his parents were so willing to let him stay with his uncle, the kidnapper. The argument, possibly fueled by alcohol, led to a duel. Brahe walked away from the duel with a scar on his forehead and missing part of his nose. After moving to Denmark, he experimented with metal fittings and ended up with a skin-colored metal prosthetic nose.

His Children were Commoners

At the age of 25, Brahe married Kirsten Hansen, the daughter of a Lutheran minister. Because she was not an aristocrat, their marriage was considered illegal until they had been together for three years. It also meant that their children were not recognized as nobility nor could they inherit his estate.

He Died from a Burst Bladder

Despite speculation that he was murdered or died from mercury poisoning, it seems that Brahe’s death was caused by being too polite to leave the dinner table to relieve himself before the meal was over. A 2012 forensic examination put theories of poison to rest and it has been concluded that he died either from a burst bladder or kidney failure due to an excess of urea in his blood.

Tags: astronomer | Tycho Brahe

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