Knutstorps Castle (Svälov, Sweden). Font: Wikimedia Commons
The great Danish astronomer Brahe Tyge (whose name is better known in its Latin version of Tycho Brahe) was born on 14 December 1546 in Knutstorp Castle. The young Tyge came from a wealthy and aristocratic family very close to King Christian III of Denmark but when he was two years old, her uncle takes Tyge with him and adopt him as their own son. Tyge came into contact with the intellectual concerns of his aunt and probably this was the spark that awoke in him his talent. As a teenager, he went to the University of Copenhagen (1559) and he was introduced to the world of astronomy through observing a partial solar eclipse (21 of August 1560). He was especially impressed by the fact that this eclipse had been predicted! His desire of knowledge was main the reason why he bought John Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de Sphaera, Regiomontanus’ De triangulis omnimodis and Petrus Apianus’ Cosmographia seu descriptio totius orbis.
Portrait of Tycho Brahe. Font: Wikimedia Commons
Tycho began a period of ten years in which he traveled through Germany and Denmark studying in different universities: alchemy and mathematics became his great passions. Furthermore, he lost part of his nose in a duel against another scientist who competed with him to see who was the best mathematician! Poor Tyge! When he was 20 he had to wear a silver prosthesis for the rest of his life.
In 1570, Tyge returned to Denmark because his father was very ill (he finally died in May of 1571). Tyge got married with Kirsten Jorgensdatter in 1572 and they had eight sons.
His academic career continued with classes in astronomy at the University of Copenhagen in 1574. In November of 1572 a new nova had appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia and that astronomical event had decided his vocation. Thus, in the spring of 1575 he moved to Kassel where William IV of Hesse-Kassel had founded a new observatory. Tyge learnt a lot in his German period so when he returned to Germany again, King Frederick II offered to him the island of Ven to build his own observatory: Uraniborg. Tyge got excited with the idea and he began to design it:
Uraniborg. Font: Wikimedia Commons
Tyge designed his great dream and it became real funded with money from the Danish crown. From the new Uraniborg Tyge was able to observe the comet Halley and he could deduce that this comet was closer the Moon than the Earth contradicting the established ideas. Uraniborg grew so much with the construction of a lot of new observational instruments and it was necessary to build a new observatory in Stjerneborg next to it. Tyge demonstrated that the obliquity of the ecliptic had decreased since the time of Ptolemy’s Almagest (c.150 AD) with his new big instruments and he could design an original geocentric model for the solar system: he placed the Earth in the center of the universe around which the Sun and the Moon rotates and the five planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury) rotates around the Sun:
Tyge’s solar system. Font: Iowa State University
Around 1590, Tyge began to believe that he was the best astronomer in the history and he became very rude and impolite. Thus he lost the confidence of the new king Christian IV and in 1597 he closed Uraniborg and moved to Prague with all the observational instruments. Then he became the Imperial Mathematician of Emperor Rudolph II and in this new period he met his young assistant Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Together they began a series of observations that lasted 38 years later when they ended the Rudolphine Tables (1627). These astronomical tables were compiled by Kepler 26 years after Tyge’s death in 24 October of 1601.
Location: Knutstorps Slot (map)