Brief biography of Tycho Brahe

portræt af Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe was born in 1546 on the family manor Knudstrup in Skåne as the eldest son of Otto Brahe and Beate Bille. Tycho Brahe, however, was reared by his uncle Jørgen Brahe and aunt, Inger Oxe (sister to Peder Oxe) on the manor Tostrup. From his 7th year he was taught Latin and at the age of 12 (in 1559) he began his studies at the University of Copenhagen (Rhetoric and Philosophy). In 1560 Tycho Brahe probably witnessed a partial solar eclipse, and from that time he began his studies of atsronomy.
In 1562 he travelled to Leipzig to study law, but Tycho was more interested in astronomy. He discovered large discrepancies between his own observations of the positions of the planets and the positions noted by astronomers before him. Tycho Brahe returned home from Leipzig in 1565 and between 1566 and 1570 he studied astronomy in Rostock, Wittenberg, Basel and Augsburg. In this period he constructed his first instruments (in 1564 a radius of wood and in 1569 the Great Quadrant at Augsburg). In 1570 his father died, and Tycho returned to Denmark.
On November 11th 1572 Tycho discovered a new bright star in Cassiopaia. The star was visible for 18 months. Tycho published his observations on the star in a book, De Nova Stella. Today we know that this was a supernova. In 1574 Tycho married Kirsten Jørgensdatter, with whom he had eight children.
In 1575 he travelled south again and made the acquaintance of the Landgrave Wilhelm IV of Hesse, who was very interested in astronomy. When he returned home again he contemplated leaving Denmark, but the king, Frederick II, at the request of Wilhelm, offered Tycho Brahe the island of Hven as fief and generous financial support (Tycho Brahe received more than 1% of Denmark's income).
In August 1576 he began building the combined manor house and observatory Uranienborg on Hven. Because of lack of space he began the construction of another observatory, Stjerneborg on a hill outside Uraniborg. As feudal lord Tycho Brahe had obligations towards the king and the peasants, but he did not fulfil them (e.g. he did not take care of the lighthouse, and he demanded too much work of his peasants and generally treated them badly).
When Christian IV took over the throne in 1596, Tycho Brahe lost most of his financial privileges, but he still kept Hven as a fief. He was criticised in particular for his treatment of the peasants.
In 1597 Tycho Brahe left Denmark, and in 1598 he accepted a proposal from Emperor Rudolf II that he come to Prague, where he was to work with Johannes Kepler. Tycho Brahe died in 1601, possibly of ureamia, possibly because of mercury poisoning. He is buried in Prague. Kepler inherited the observations of Tycho Brahe, with the aid of which he was able to find his laws of planetary motion.