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Tycho Brahe: biography of this astronomer

Tycho Brahe: biography of this astronomer

November 27, 2021

The human being has always looked at the sky and the stars with veneration and respect. An indescribable mystery for most of the population during much of history, celestial bodies have been the object of worship, origin of myths and different mystical and religious beliefs. And since antiquity humanity has tried explain what is beyond and how the cosmos works .

One of the most influential and important figures throughout history was Copernicus, who proposed that the heliocentric theory. Another, perhaps somewhat lesser known, is Tycho Brahe.

This man is considered one of the most important astronomers in history, born at a time when there were no telescopes or precise mechanisms to observe the behavior of the stars. Knowing your history is important to understand the importance of your discoveries, and that is why throughout this article let's see a little biography of Tycho Brahe .


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Biography of Tycho Brahe

Tyge Ottesen Brahe, better known as Tycho Brahe (latinization of his name), was born on December 14, 1546 in the castle of Knudstrup, property built by his father and located in a Scania at the time Danish. He was the firstborn (born with a twin but he died early) of the royal adviser Otte Brahe and Beate Clausdatter Bille, both members of the nobility and aristocracy of Denmark and with great power.

The young Tycho, however, was not raised by them but by his uncle Joergen Brahe, who had not had offspring. He was initially abducted by his uncle, but his parents decided to let him keep the child and raise him. Joergen Brahe lent him great support throughout his life and decided to educate him in the best possible way, helping to train him in areas such as knowledge of Latin.


Academic training

When he turned thirteen in 1559 his uncle decided to send him to the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetoric , with the purpose of having a life as a noble at the service of the crown.

A year after his arrival at the University something happened that would greatly mark the fate of the young Tycho Brahe: he could observe a solar eclipse. Since then the main objective of Brahe was to study astronomy, incorporating into his studies subjects of this subject and mathematics.

After finishing his studies at that university, he decided to continue his training at the University of Leipzig in 1562 in order to study law, while his fascination and studies on the stars and astronomy continued to grow. During his training in this area he had a dispute with another student, which resulted in a duel in which he lost much of his nose. As well could observe that the forecasts of the time at astronomical level had a lot of errors .


The same year he lost his nose, 1565, the conflict situation during the Seven Years' War was such that his uncle Joergen made him return to Copenhagen for safety. This would die shortly after, leaving his inheritance to his nephew. With this inheritance it continued forming in astronomy and medicine in the universities of Wittenberg and Rostock.

Little by little young Tycho was reaching a certain popularity, something that did not go unnoticed in the eyes of the king and He was offered a position at Roskilde Cathedral . His father died in 1571, after which he lived with another of his uncles.

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A star in the sky

One day, in 1572, A star appeared that had never been observed before in the sky: the constellation of Cassiopeia . This star, actually a nova, was of great interest to the author and spent about a year making various observations. In them he could see that there was no parallax independently from where he looked (that is, there was no difference in his apparent position). The appearance of this star made the author make one of those that would be considered major contributions: the contradiction of the idea that the fixed stars were immutable, hitherto valid.

In 1573 he published his first work, in which he would reflect his observations: "De nova stella". This work would make it reach great popularity. Also during that same year he would have a relationship with a woman of peasant origin named Kirstine, with whom he would join despite the opposition of his family and with which he would eventually have children.

The island of Hven and Uraniborg

Tycho Brahe enjoyed the sympathies of the monarch Frederick II, who gave him ownership of the island of Hveen in 1576. In it the astronomer built the largest and most developed observatory of the time , which he called the city of heaven or Uraniborg. In this observatory he would spend two decades doing amazingly precise (remember that the telescope was not yet invented) and numerous measurements and observations of the stars.

Among the observations he made, he could see how the movement of the stars was not perfectly circular but traced an ellipse. Specifically, from the analysis of the behavior of comets. This observation and a later one during the year 1588 led him to another great new discovery for the time that contradicted preexisting beliefs: proved that comets were not in the atmosphere of our planet but outside it .

On the other hand and largely because of the difficulty in accurately measuring the movement of the stars, Brahe came to the conclusion that Copernicus' ideas were incorrect given that if the heliocentric theory is true, the human being should be able to perceive the parallax of the stars (something that has subsequently been seen to occur).

Last years, death and legacy

In the same 1588 King Frederick II died. something that made Tycho Brahe lose his right over the island of Hven and the pension he received from the monarch. That is why during 1597 he decided to leave Denmark. In 1599 he was welcomed in Prague by King Rudolf II , who made him the imperial mathematician and offered him a castle as an observatory and a considerable sum of money as fees. Likewise, he would come into contact with the one who would be his disciple and also relevant author Johannes Kepler.

A year later Brahe and Kepler met to make a collaboration, which initially was full of disagreements but ended with Kepler as an assistant to the astronomer and which was highly fruitful. But nevertheless, in 1601 Brahe became seriously ill . Death came to Brahe on October 24, 1601, in the city of Prague, because of a kidney failure that ended his life. Previously he asked his assistant to finish his work.

The legacy of this important astronomer is enormous, since thanks to him he began to investigate in greater depth the behavior of the cosmos and could contrast some beliefs that existed since Antiquity. Not in vain is considered one of the most important astronomers in the world, and was a source of inspiration for other greats such as his disciple Kepler.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gribbin, J. (2006). History of science, 1543-2001. Barcelona: Criticism

Great Minds: Tycho Brahe, the Astronomer With a Pet Elk (November 2021).


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