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subject = Physics
title = Tycho Brahe's Contributions to Physics
Tycho Brahe was born on December 14th, 1546 in a town called
Knudstrup in Scania, Denmark. His early years were filled with pain, as he
was kidnapped by his uncle and raised in his castle in Tostrup, Scania. His
education was backed by his uncle, and he went to the University of Copenhagen
to study law from 1559-1562. It was during this time that Brahe developed a
love for astronomy. He saw a solar eclipse of the Sun which was predicted for
August 21st 1560, and he found it fascinating how a prediction of that nature
could be made. He also developed small globes with the help of some of his
instructors at Copenhagen. In 1562, Brahe was sent to the University of Leipzeg
where he studied until 1565. During this period, he made his first astronomical
observation. He saw an overlapping of Jupiter and Saturn, and saw that the
almanacs and ephemerides of the time were inaccurate.
Between 1565 and 1570,
he traveled Europe, studying at Wittenberg, Rostock, Basel, and Augsburg. During
this time he gathered astronomical and mathematical instruments, including
a large quadrant. In 1571, he settled in Scania after inheriting the land of
his father and uncle and built a small observatory. Here, he discovered a star,
one which had not been seen, that was brighter than Venus. This supernova in
the constellation Cassiopeia shocked the scientific community because it suggested
that the universe was not in fact perfect and unchanging, as it was believed
to be at the time.
With the discovery of this "new" star, Brahe dedicated
himself to astronomy. Frederick II, king of Denmark and Norway, provided Tycho
with funds to construct and equip an astronomical observatory on the island
of Hven in 1576. Brahe named this observatory Uraniborg. For 20 years, the
observatory was the center for astronomical study and discovery in northern
Europe. In 1577 he proved that the orbit of the comet of 1577 did lay beyond
the moon. He also charted accurate positions for more than 777 fixed stars.
He also proposed a modified Copernican system which suggested that the planets
revolved around the Sun which in turn moved around the Earth, which was stationary.
Frederick II died in 1588 and his son Christian IV took over as king. Brahe
lost most of his income as a result. Tycho left Hven and his observatory in
He was offered a grant to Bohemia from the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf
II, who gave him a pension of 3000 ducats and an estate near Prague. He started
building a new observatory, but died in 1601 before it could be completed.
Brahe's work was indeed significant. His data that he had accumulated during
his lifetime was extremely accurate, and it allowed his assistant Johannes
Kepler to formulate his three laws of planetary motion. He also laid the ground
work for Sir Isaac Newton. Much of what we know about astronomy is thanks to
Tycho Brahe. His last words in Prague were, "Ne frustra vixisse videur," or,
"May I not seemed to have lived in vain." He indeed did not.
Tycho," Microsoft Encarta '97 Encyclopedia
"Brahe, Tycho," Encyclopedia
"Tycho Brahe," http://www.stolaf.edu/stolaf/depts/physics/112-spring96/
"Tycho Brahe." http://www.nada.kth.se/~fred/tycho.html