Tycho Brahe

The podcast on Tycho Brahe and Johannes Keppler

for more on Kepler, see Johannes Kepler

Tycho Brahe, (14 December 1546 – 24 October 1601)

The notes for the podcast are some 12 pages (the podcast was 90 mins) so it’ll take me a bit to clean them up for this page.


Most precise measurements of the skies of the time. Wrote about supernovas, comets. Combined the geometric Copernican system with the Ptolemaic system (known as the Tychonic system)

Influenced by:

Claudius Ptolemy

Rudolf’s Prague




1% of all danish wealth

observatory on a danish island: Uraniborg, one of the very first buildings ever built (at least in europe and in modern times) to have astronomical observation as a major criteria built into its blueprint

and an alchemist’s lab in the cellar

Lost part of his nose in a duel with Manderup Parsberg over the legitimacy over a mathematical formula.

Pete will briefly talk about fencing duels of the time.

nose make-up: gol-silver, copper, bronze (exhumation)

He had predicted some bad event in a horoscope

at the time in india the pottery guild was doing skin grafts (because cutting off of part of the nose was punishment for prostitution) …but not in europe

For centuries, it was common knowledge that the nose was made of gold and silver, however in

an exhumation in June 24, 1901, green was discovered around his nose on his skull, and was therefore theorized that it also contained copper.. and most likely he had more than one.. a precious metal one (which would have been very heave) for special occasions, and otherwise a copper one..

BUT, the most recent exhumation in exhumed in 2010, analyzed a small bone fragment and declared it was brass.. still could have had more than one prosthetic nose

he kept it in place with glue.

his house on hven (very cool, with an alchemist’s lab.. but too awesome to go into) had cables going to each of his student’s rooms attached to bells to summon them. When guests came he’d make his students “magically appear” by whispering on of their names. He’s pull the cord when no one noticed, waited till the student was near the door on his way in then whisper their name right before they entered.

uraniborg, his observatories (plural on this island were awesome… huge things. By far the best of his time. Built into the structure of his villa and satelite observatories…….stjerneborg

he had a dwarf jester named Jepp

The most awesome of all stories.

Had a tame moose (actually an elk) that was meant for a nobleman in Kasel, but died by drinking too much beer and fell down some stairs.

named the sextant?

mix of ptolemaic and copernican tables was normal at the time (mix of old and new science)

but this began to change with:

1572 super nova

describes a super nova, now named SN 1572,  in the constellation Cassiopeia

Because it had been maintained since antiquity that the world beyond the Moon’s orbit was eternally unchangeable (celestial immutability was a fundamental axiom of the Aristotelian world-view), other observers held that the phenomenon was something in the terrestrial sphere below the Moon.

tycho quote (from ferguson’s tycho & kepler)

i doubted no longer. in truth, it was the greatest wonder that has ever shown itself in the whole of nature since the beginning of the worlkd, or in any case as great as when the sun was stopped by joshua’s prayers”

  • he coined the term “nova” in his book de stella nova.. though we now classify it as a supernova.. so when you hear nova or supernova being used, you know who to thank.

  • he almost didn’t publish, because he was a nobleman.. but when he saw how inept other descriptions of it were (a comet closer than the moon, which ptolemaic system would allow) he finally published.

  • also had obstacles when preparing to lecture


1006 (unobserved in europe) chinese called it a ‘guest star’

1572, tycho’s

and 1604, johannes kepler’s

none since

rejected copernicus’ moving earth theory

(no stellar parallax)

tychonic system:

All planets revolve around the sun, but the sun and moon revolve around the earth.

again, this comes back to parallax.

horoscope for prince christian (denmark)

71 pages.. but if the royal clock is as much as 4 mins off at the time of birth then it’s useless

to make a long story short, when this christian became king, he didn’t take as kindly to him as his father did… both him and brahe had egos that got in the way and brahe ended up packing his stuff into a caravan and left his Island of Hven.. and then slowly left Denmark.

Around here is when he first received a copy of a book by young district mathematician named [Johannes Kepler]().

Kepler and Brahe in Prague

Graz was no place for a Lutheran like Kepler… Frederik II instituted the catholic counter-reformation and made life very hard for protestants. Kepler started looking around for another place of employment not long after Brahe first read his book.

Brahe sent his own book to people in Rudolf II’s court with the wish to present one to Rudolf in person. Which worked out great because Rudolf couldn’t wait to meet him and sent an invitation for him to come to Bohemia, with a salary and land grant to set up shop.

Before he came to prague whipped up some medicines to give Rudolf as a gift, including one for the plague.

He was shown Belvedere, but Brahe said it would be too small to set up his instruments.

then the emperor offered him (benatky) observatory and “chemical laboratory”

Benatky is the czech word for ‘Venice’ since, when it floods it’s surrounded by water.

His wage was:

1000 schock a year = 2000 Taler, 26000 krowns, or 60 000 kreuzer, 360 000 denars.

grossknecht 10 a year and a kindermädchen 1 a year

This is higher than many barons and counts made in Bohemia, and Rudolf decided this should also be retroactive since the time that Brahe left his services at the King of Denmark.

When the Emperor Rudolf required of tycho to be at court twice a day, he stayed at the golden griffin (on one of my old tours) within sight of the castle. His duties mainly involved advice based on horoscopes. And while Tycho did believe in this (probably more than Kepler) he thought this boring and tedious. Another thing is that Tycho believed that free will trumped the influence of the planets by a long shot.. so predicting battles was ludicrous.. but Rudolf believed in it strongly and he was paying the bills.

Eventually Kepler lived a few blocks further from the castle.. where now a statue of brahe and kepler stands.

Tycho mounted some of his instruments on the balconies of the Belvedere and used it as an observatory. (the same he had turned down on his way into Prague)

According to hasner, kepler was there when he died and it was brahe’s dying wish for kepler to finsh his model (theory)

In fact there had been trust issues between Brahe and Kepler in the beginning, but Brahe soon realized that if he wanted to see his Tychonian model of the solar system finished and published he would have to trust kepler to finish it after his death.

From here on out they worked together, for which they are now famous.

bladder issues (kepler’s party story)

Just outside the castle he was invited to a banquet. It was considered rude to rise from the table before the host. this one simple rule killed poor Tycho. He ate and drank heavily, but refused to break etiquette. By the time he got home he couldn’t urinate anymore. He tried for days, but eventually died some 5 days later. On his last night, his delirium stopped his suffering.. and over and over he said “let me not seem to have lived in vain”

he’s buried in tyn. he was in a magnificient casket in a procession

Tycho-Keplerian geocentrism

Tycho had an alternative theory to copernicus’ helio centric model:

The stars don’t move, therefore the earth is standing still “no parallax” (not detected until 1838century did we have exact enough telescopes to measure the stars movement.. the stars are just so much further away than they thought at the time)

plus the earth is too big and sluggish to move ( since it’s moving in “Aether” or “Quintessence”;)

and if the earth is not moving, it’s clear the sun is revolving around the earth..

BUT tycho’s observation (some of the best at the time) clearly showed the planets revolving around the sun.



The crater Tycho on the Moon is named after him, as is the crater Tycho Brahe on Mars. The Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen is also named after him.

HEAT1X-TYCHO BRAHE is the name of a manned private spacecraft to be launched by Copenhagen Suborbitals. Other things named after him include a bar inZagreb and a ferry operating between Sweden and Denmark.


Kitty Ferguson’s Tycho & Kepler Josef Hasner’s Tycho Brahe und J. Kepler in Prag – a german book printed in prague in 1873

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