Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tycho Brahe

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BRAHE, Tycho, an illustrious astronomer, descended from a noble family, of Swedish origin, which had settled in Denmark, was born on the 14th December 1546, at Knudstorp, in the county of Schonen. He learned Latin at the age of seven, and studied five years under private tutors. On the death of his father his uncle sent him, in April 1559, to study philosophy and rhetoric at Copen hagen. The great eclipse of the sun, on the 21st of August 1560, happening at the precise time foretold by astronomers, he began to look upon astronomy as some thing divine ; and having purchased the Epkcmerides of Stadius, he gained some knowledge of the theory of the planets. In 1562 he was sent by his uncle to Leipsic to study law ; but astronomy wholly engrossed his thoughts, and he employed all his pocket-money in purchasing books on that science. Having procured a small celestial globe, he used to wait till his tutor went to bed, in order to examine the constellations and learn their names ; and when the sky was clear, he spent whole nights in viewing the stars. He returned to Denmark in 1565, but soon left for Witten berg, whence he was driven by the plague to Rostock. There in the following year his choleric disposition in volved him in a duel with a Danish nobleman, in which he had the misfortune to lose part of his nose ; but this defect he so skilfully supplied by means of gold, silver, and wax, that i.t was scarcely perceptible. In 1569 he took up his residence at Augsburg and remained there two years, busily engaged in astronomical and chemical researches. In 1571 he returned to Denmark, and was favoured by his maternal uncle Steno Belle with a convenient place at his castle of Herritzvad near Knudstorp for making his obser vations, and building a laboratory. But his marrying a peasant girl occasioned a violent quarrel between him and his relatives, and the king was obliged to interpose in order to reconcile them. In 1574, by royal command, he read some lectures at Copenhagen ; and the year following he began his travels through Germany, and proceeded as far as Venice. He then resolved to remove his family, and settle at Basel ; but Frederick II., unwilling that Denmark should lose the honour of his residence, bestowed upon him for life the Island of Huen in the Sound, for the erection of an observatory and laboratory, and conferred on him a fee in Norway, a pension of two thousand crowns out of the treasury, and the canonry of Roschild, which brought him a thousand more. The first stone of the observa tory was laid on the 8th of August 1576. James VI. of Scotland, afterwards James I. of England, on his visit to Denmark to marry the Princess Anne, went to see Tycho Brahe in his retirement at Uranienburg, made him several presents, and wrote some verses in his praise. Soon after the death of King Frederick, the astronomer was deprived of his pension, fee, and canonry. Finding him self unable to defray the expenses of his observatory he went to Copenhagen, whither he carried some of his instru ments, and continued his astronomical observations in that city, till, by the order of Christian IV., he was obliged to discontinue them. He then removed his family to Rostock, and afterwards to Holstein in order to solicit Henry Ranzau to introduce him to the emperor ; and accordingly he was received by Rudolph II. at Prague with the most gratifying marks of respect. That prince gave him a magnificent house till he could procure for him one better fitted for astronomical observations, assigned him a pension of three thousand crowns, and promised, upon the first opportunity, a fee for him and his descendants. But he did not long enjoy his good fortune; for, on the 24th of October 1601, he died of a strangury, in the 55th year of his age. He was iuterred in a magnificent manner in the principal church at Prague, where a noble monument was erected to his memory. Shortly before his death he had been joined by Kepler, who owes his fame to the lessons of careful observation and cautious inference impressed on him by Tycho.

The materials for Brahe s life are to be found in Gassendi, Vita

T. Brahci, 1654. For later surveys of his life and labours, see Delambre, Astronomic modernc ; Lalande, B Miograpliie astronow.; Bertrand, Les Fondatcurs de I Astronomic moderne ; Brevster, Martyrs of Science. For Brahe s contributions to astronomy, see

Grant, History of Physical Astronomy, and the article Astronomy.