Comenius - Following the Famous Scientists

Scientific discoveries



Uppdated 2010-06-07


Tycho Brahe
- Scientific discoveries

Before Tycho

It was the old Greeks who started to explore science for real and they are probably the biggest inspiration for scientists along the years. Pythagoras ones said that "everything in the universe, including abstract ideas, could be quantified and expressed in numerical values". Pythagoras is mostly famous for the Pythagoras theorem. It was another Greek, named Ptolemy, who did the first comprehensive model of the universe were all the planets orbited around the Earth. He had Aristoteles philosophical framework as an inspiration for his own work. Before the 16th century it was the ptolemaiska system that was the foundation of astronomy in Europe. 1543 Nicolas Copernicus questioned the theory about that the Earth was the centre and claimed that it was the sun instead. Martin Luther and the Catholic Church didn't like Copernicus's theory because it wasn't at all like the bible said. The bible says that the Earth is the centre of everything and God has decided that. Copernicus is probably the scientist who has had the biggest impact on Tycho Brahe, even if they didn't shared the same theory.

He is known all over the world as a huge astronomer, but who was he really?

Tycho Brahe was born as a nobleman but was not interested in actually being one. He was determined to study the stars and becoming an astronomer. Because of his mission that he had been given by the Danish King, to study the stars on the Island Ven, Tycho believed that he was better than the farmers and social workers and he also had loss of respect for the Danish King in some occasions. The King saw him as a servant to the Danish government but Tycho thought of him self as a much greater man than that. He deserved to be appreciated and respected by the King. Because of his ways of thinking the Danish King and Tycho weren't always best friends. But to still have the King sponsoring Tycho Brahe with Uraniborg, he had to behave in front of the king. When I read about this big science man, I saw him as a very strict and determined man who always knew what he wanted out of life. When he did his studies on the island Ven, he had crowds of servant people in his house, doing what he wanted them to do. Many of them didn't dare to look him in the eyes or to say what they thought about him. If someone else had a bit of metal as a nose, they certainly would laugh. But Tycho wasn't the man that you made fun of. And you'd also keep it to yourself that you thought ha was a stupid man who dared another man in a duel to prove which man who had the best skill in mathematics! He became a powerful man to his servants; he could send you back to your pour family, back to milking cows and your ramshackle farm, in a second, if you didn't do as he pleased! But maybe he wasn't this "monster" as some of his employees may have said, maybe he became this strict and powerful man when he worked to much and was all soaked up in his measurements and studies. His loss of sleep and bad health may have caused his short temper. But it was true though, that Mr. Brahe was very mean and always looked down on his employees and considered him self better then most of the people around him. This I think was because of his though childhood he grew up with. Many highly placed men at this time, in the 1550, were often running after the maids and flirting with them in many ways, but Tycho was certainly not this type of man. He never had his thoughts on anything but his work. But still he had many children with his lover and he was satisfied and happy together with her. Tycho Brahe's health was often in a bad condition. He was often tired because of his measurements at night and he sometimes had severe pain all over his body. But he had difficulties showing that he wasn't feeling good and was having hard showing his weakness, especially in front of his maids and servants. So his "wife", Kirsten was often worried about him. In the end of Tycho's life in 1601, he died of quicksilver poisoning. The symptoms were prostate magnification and it has been many myths about how Brahe died. For example that he died sitting in a party and didn't have the energy to go to the bathroom and that his urine bladder blew up because of it. But certainly it's just a myth.

How did Tycho Brahe become interested in astronomy/science?

When Brahe was 13 years old he was sent off to Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetoric at the university. It was never intended for him to develop an interest for astronomy, however he did. At Copenhagen year 1560, he saw a solar eclipse that woke his curiosity for astronomy. After that he started to move in the direction of reading many books regarding astronomy. His uncle told him that he should study law and continued with this at different universities at places such as Leipzig, Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel. However in Leipzig, Brahe started to study astronomy, lacking authorization from his parents, and after a while he was forgiven for the reason that he showed success in the factual matter. He started to see that the old observations he could comprehend in the texts was not as accurate the authors claimed they were. Therefore he started to construct improved instruments and reliable methods to develop and carry out precise measurements of the astronomical objects. What did Tycho Brahe become famous for? The 11th November 1572 Tycho saw what he thought was a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia. This new discovery was extraordinary because the conception of the world at that time said that it was impossible that changes could occur outside the moon. Tycho Brahe was sure about his calculations, but what he saw was in fact supernova. The following year he published a brief observational report that he named De Nova et Nullius Aevi Memoria Prius Visa Stella ("On the New and Never Previously Seen Star"). In 1574 he gave lectures at the University of Copenhagen as well as visiting other astronomers in Germany. Tycho Brahe considered that the most important thing when observing the universe were accurate observations. In 1577 he made a new trailblazing discovery, the discovering of a comet. The comet was moving, this time outside the moon as well. He wrote about his discovery regarding the comet and called it: De Mundi Aetherei Recentioribus Phaenomenis ("Concerning the New Phenomena in the Ethereal World). Tycho Brahe's disclosures did never get published to ordinary people during his lifetime. Johannes Kepler was almost the only one who took part of his work and used it for his own observations. When Kepler published his work in 1627, which he named Tabulae Rudolphina, was the first time that people could really understand what Tycho actually did. Tycho Brahe's discovery about the supernova and the comet were astonishing for his time. The greatest conclusion he made was because of these events which was that the universe wasn't immutable and that it could change. This is what we today call a paradigm shift. Tycho quoted, "Now it is quite clear to me that there are no solid spheres in the heavens, and those that have been devised by the authors to save the appearances, exist only in the imagination."

What was he's goal with his work?

His goal summed up was to improve the astronomical science. In his researches he mapped the whole night sky with all stars, planets and comets so that he had a concrete map that one could look at instead of just looking up in the sky. He also wanted to prove that our galaxy wasn't geocentrically with the earth in the middle and all planets orbited around it. Instead, he had his own theory and thought that it was more geo-heliocentrically, which means that the earth was in the middle, the sun orbiting around it and then all of the other planets around the sun. He did succeed to map the night sky and all of the stars that you could see with the naked eye were on his map and it's estimated to consist of over one thousand of them.