Year born: 1546
Research Areas: Astronomy, Supernovae, Mechanics
"... When I had satisfied myself that no star of that kind have ever shone forth before, I was led into such perplexity by the unbelievability of the thing that I began to doubt the faith of my own eyes. "
Source: Tycho Brahe, cited by JILA, University of Colorado
Tycho was born in Knudstrup, Denmark. His family were very wealthy and one of Denmark’s noble families. He lived with his uncle when he was young and his uncle paid for him to study Law at the University of Copenhagen. Tycho had become interested in astronomy after seeing a solar eclipse when he was 14. He preferred to learn about science and did not spend much time studying the law. When he was 20, Tycho was in a fight and lost part of his nose. He wore a prosthetic metal nose for the rest of his life.
Tycho noticed that a lot existing astronomical information was not very accurate. The stars and planets were not where the data said it should be. Tycho decided it would be his mission to correct the tables and charts.
In his 20s, Tycho used his family wealth to build a small observatory. One night in November 1572 he discovered a ‘new star’. This star was brighter than Venus and in a spot in the sky where there shouldn’t have been a star. It could be seen in the sky for the next 18 months. This discovery changed scientists view of the night sky. It was no longer fixed and unchanging. We now know this ‘new star’ was a supernova.
After his discovery, Tycho built a bigger and better observatory. The King of Denmark gave him money and land to do so. Tycho was able to employ assistants and together they corrected nearly all the astronomical records. His younger sister Sophie also worked with him. Many of the scientific tools they used were made by Tycho himself.
During his work, Tycho also observed comets. His results led him to conclude that the comet was beyond the Moon. This contradicted the view held by most scientists that everything beyond the Moon was fixed. He developed his own model of the Solar System, known as the Tychonic System. In it, he said that the planets orbit the Sun, and the Moon orbits the Earth, but that the Sun also orbits the Earth.
Tycho was doing his astronomy work before the telescope was invented. At the time, his observations were 5 times more accurate than any others. His work led the way to many future discoveries.
There is a crater on the Moon, a crater on Mars, and an asteroid, all named after Tycho.
Tycho was also interested in medicine. He created several recipes for medicines using herbs from his large.