Sophia Brahe

Sophia Brahe
Credit: Saddhiyama

Occupation: Astronomer and Writer

Year born: 1556

Research Areas: Astronomy, Genealogy 

 

"When Denmark remembers her son Tycho, she should not forget the noble woman who in spirit more than blood was his sister. That shining star on our Danish sky was indeed a double-star!"

Source: Translated from an 1846 Danish publication by J. Runeberg

 

Early Life

Sophia was born in Knudsturp, Denmark, in 1556. She was the youngest of 10 children. Her oldest brother was the famous astronomer, Tycho Brahe

Tycho and Sophia were part of a noble Danish family. Their family did not approve of Tycho and Sophia's interest in science. That was not the sort of thing noble people did! Tycho's parents thought he should study law or politics. However, Tycho decided to study astronomy instead. He encouraged Sophia to study science as well. He taught her chemistry and how to grow plants for food and medicine. But he told her not to study astronomy because it was too complex for a woman. Sophia was not put off and studied on her own. She even paid for translations of Latin books.

Career Highlights

Tycho was proud that his young sister had learned astronomy on her own. Sophia began to help Tycho with his work when she was a young teenager. She made observations of eclipses and comets. When she was 16, Sophia helped discover a new star. Tycho called it 'Nova Stella'. We now know that the new star was a supernova.

Sophia and her brother studied the night sky together for many years. Sophia often visited Tycho on his island, Hven. The island had been given to him by the King of Denmark. Tycho built 2 castles on the island, each with its own observatory. Sophia assisted Tycho with his work on the orbits of planets. She made precise measurements of planets' movements. The work was the basis for later methods used to predict the positions of the planets.

Legacy

Today, Sophia is thought to be one of Denmark’s first female researchers and writers.

Other Interests

Sophia was also interested in genealogy - the study of family trees. She finished her first book on the topic was she was 41. She published her most important work when she was 70. It was 900 pages long! Her book is still used as a major source of information on the early history of Danish nobility. Sophia continued her research and writing until she died aged 89.