Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work


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This suggested it was not even a planet, but a fixed star in the stellar sphere beyond all the planets. In , he published a small book, De nova stella [21] thereby coining the term nova for a "new" star we now classify this star as a supernova and we know that it is 7, light-years from Earth. This discovery was decisive for his choice of astronomy as a profession.


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Tycho was strongly critical of those who dismissed the implications of the astronomical appearance, writing in the preface to De nova stella : " O crassa ingenia. O caecos coeli spectatores " "Oh thick wits.

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Oh blind watchers of the sky". The publication of his discovery made him a well-known name among scientists across Europe.

Tycho continued with his detailed observations, often assisted by his first assistant and student, his younger sister Sophie Brahe. In , Tycho published the observations made in from his first observatory at Herrevad Abbey. He then started lecturing on astronomy, but gave it up and left Denmark in spring to tour abroad.

He first visited William IV, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel 's observatory at Kassel, then went on to Frankfurt, Basel and Venice, where he acted as an agent for the Danish king, contacting artisans and craftsmen whom the king wanted to work on his new palace at Elsinore. Upon his return, the King wished to repay Tycho's service by offering him a position worthy of his family; he offered him a choice of lordships of militarily and economically important estates, such as the castles of Hammershus or Helsingborg. But Tycho was reluctant to take up a position as a lord of the realm, preferring to focus on his science.


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He wrote to his friend Johannes Pratensis, "I did not want to take possession of any of the castles our benevolent king so graciously offered me. I am displeased with society here, customary forms and the whole rubbish". Until then, Hven had been property directly under the Crown, and the 50 families on the island considered themselves to be freeholding farmers, but with Tycho Brahe's appointment as Feudal Lord of Hven, this changed.

The court established Tycho's right to levy taxes and labor, and the result was a contract detailing the mutual obligations of lord and peasants on the island.

Brahe envisioned his castle Uraniborg as a temple dedicated to the muses of arts and sciences, rather than as a military fortress; indeed, it was named after Urania , the muse of astronomy. Construction began in with a laboratory for his alchemical experiments in the cellar. Uraniborg was inspired by the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio , and was one of the first buildings in northern Europe to show influence from Italian renaissance architecture.

When he realized that the towers of Uraniborg were not adequate as observatories because of the instruments' exposure to the elements and the movement of the building, he then constructed a second underground observatory at nearby Stjerneborg in The basement included an alchemical laboratory with 16 furnaces for conducting distillations and other chemical experiments.

He created a system of ponds and canals to run the wheels of the paper mill. Tycho's instrument-maker Hans Crol also formed part of the scientific community on the island. He observed the great comet that was visible in the Northern sky from November to January Within Lutheranism, it was commonly believed that celestial objects like comets were powerful portents, announcing the coming apocalypse, and in addition to Tycho's observations several Danish amateur astronomers observed the object and published prophesies of impending doom.

He was able to determine that the comet's distance to Earth was much greater than the distance of the Moon, so that the comet could not have originated in the "earthly sphere", confirming his prior anti-Aristotelian conclusions about the fixed nature of the sky beyond the Moon. He also realized that the comet's tail was always pointing away from the Sun. He calculated its diameter, mass, and the length of its tail, and speculated about the material it was made of. At this point, he had not yet broken with Copernican theory, and observing the comet inspired him to try to develop an alternative Copernican model in which the Earth was immobile.

Pierre Gassendi wrote that Tycho also had a tame elk moose and that his mentor the Landgrave Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel Hesse-Cassel asked whether there was an animal faster than a deer. Tycho replied that there was none, but he could send his tame elk. When Wilhelm replied he would accept one in exchange for a horse, Tycho replied with the sad news that the elk had just died on a visit to entertain a nobleman at Landskrona.

Apparently, during dinner, the elk had drunk a lot of beer, fallen down the stairs, and died.

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As part of Tycho's duties to the Crown in exchange for his estate, he fulfilled the functions of a royal astrologer. At the beginning of each year, he had to present an Almanac to the court, predicting the influence of the stars on the political and economic prospects of the year. And at the birth of each prince, he prepared their horoscopes, predicting their fates. In , Tycho's royal benefactor died, and a volume of Tycho's great two-volume work Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata Introduction to the New Astronomy was published.

The first volume, devoted to the new star of , was not ready, because the reduction of the observations of —3 involved much research to correct the stars' positions for refraction, precession, the motion of the Sun etc. Besides the comet observations, it included an account of Tycho's system of the world.

While at Uraniborg, Tycho Brahe maintained correspondence with scientists and astronomers across Europe. Thus, his correspondence was crucial to his research. Often, correspondence was not just private communication between scholars, but also a way to disseminate results and arguments and to build progress and scientific consensus.

Through correspondence, Tycho Brahe was involved in several personal disputes with critics of his theories. Prominent among them were John Craig , a Scottish physician who was a strong believer in the authority of the Aristotelian worldview, and Nicolaus Reimers Baer , known as Ursus, an astronomer at the Imperial court in Prague, whom Tycho accused of having plagiarized his cosmological model.

Craig refused to accept Brahe's conclusion that the comet of had to be located within the aetherial sphere rather than within the atmosphere of Earth. Craig tried to contradict Brahe by using his own observations of the comet, and by questioning his methodology. Brahe published an apologia a defense of his conclusions, in which he provided additional arguments, as well as condemning Craig's ideas in strong language for being incompetent.

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Another dispute concerned the mathematician Paul Wittich , who, after staying on Hven in , taught Count Wilhelm of Kassel and his astronomer Christoph Rothmann to build copies of Brahe's instruments without permission from Brahe. In turn, Craig, who had studied with Wittich, accused Brahe of minimizing Wittich's role in developing some of the trigonometric methods used by Brahe.

Who Was Copernicus?

In his dealings with these disputes, Tycho Brahe made sure to leverage his support in the scientific community, by publishing and disseminating his own answers and arguments. Excerpt of Tycho Brahe's Elegy to Dania [42]. When Frederick died in , his son and heir Christian IV was only 11 years old. A regency council was appointed to rule for the young prince-elect until his coronation in The head of the council Steward of the Realm was Christoffer Valkendorff , who disliked Tycho Brahe after a conflict between them, and hence Tycho's influence at the Danish court steadily declined.

Feeling that his legacy on Hven was in peril, he approached the Dowager Queen Sophie and asked her to affirm in writing her late husband's promise to endow Hven to Tycho's heirs. King Christian IV followed a policy of curbing the power of the nobility by confiscating their estates to minimize their income bases, by accusing nobles of misusing their offices and of heresies against the Lutheran church.

Tycho, who was known to sympathize with the Philippists followers of Philip Melanchthon , was among the nobles who fell out of grace with the new king.

Nicholas Copernicus (Mikotaj Kopernik), – | Nature

The king's unfavorable disposition towards Tycho was likely also a result of efforts by several of his enemies at court to turn the king against him. Tycho's enemies included, in addition to Valkendorff, the king's doctor Peter Severinus, who also had personal gripes with Brahe, and several gnesio-Lutheran Bishops who suspected Brahe of heresy — a suspicion motivated by his known Philippist sympathies, his pursuits in medicine and alchemy both of which he practiced without the church's approval and his prohibiting the local priest on Hven to include the exorcism in the baptismal ritual.

Among the accusations raised against Tycho Brahe were his failure to adequately maintain the royal chapel at Roskilde, and his harshness and exploitation of the Hven peasantry. Tycho became even more inclined to leave when a mob of commoners, possibly incited by his enemies at court, rioted in front of his house in Copenhagen. Tycho Brahe left Hven in , bringing some of his instruments with him to Copenhagen, and entrusting others to a caretaker on the island.

Shortly before leaving, he completed his star catalogue giving the positions of 1, stars. The instruments he had used in Uraniborg and Stjerneborg were depicted and described in detail in his book Astronomiae instauratae mechanica or Instruments for the restoration of astronomy , [43] first published in The King sent two envoys to Hven to describe the instruments left behind by Brahe.

Unversed in astronomy, the envoys reported to the king that the large mechanical contraptions such as his large quadrant and sextant were "useless and even harmful". From to , he spent a year at the castle of his friend Heinrich Rantzau in Wandesburg outside Hamburg , and then they moved for a while to Wittenberg , where they stayed in the former home of Philip Melanchthon.

The emperor then brought him back to Prague, where he stayed until his death. At the imperial court even Tycho's wife and children were treated like nobility, which they had never been at the Danish court. Tycho received financial support from several nobles in addition to the emperor, including Oldrich Desiderius Pruskowsky von Pruskow, to whom he dedicated his famous Mechanica. In return for their support, Tycho's duties included preparing astrological charts and predictions for his patrons at events such as births, weather forecasting , and astrological interpretations of significant astronomical events, such as the supernova of sometimes called Tycho's supernova and the Great Comet of In Prague, Tycho worked closely with Johannes Kepler , his assistant.

Kepler was a convinced Copernican, and considered Tycho's model to be mistaken, and derived from simple "inversion" of the Sun's and Earth's positions in the Copernican model. Kepler had previously spoken highly of Ursus, but now found himself in the problematic position of being employed by Tycho and having to defend his employer against Ursus' accusations, even though he disagreed with both of their planetary models. Tycho suddenly contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later, on 24 October , at the age of According to Kepler's first-hand account, Tycho had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette.

The night before he died, he suffered from a delirium during which he was frequently heard to exclaim that he hoped he would not seem to have lived in vain. It was reported that Brahe had written his own epitaph, "He lived like a sage and died like a fool.

Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work Copernicus: A Brief Guide to His Life and Work
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