Tycho Brahe

OF eminent astronomers, the next in point of time was Tycho Brahe, who, though adopting the Ptolemaic notion of the earth being the fixed and immovable centre of the universe, yet did good service to the progress of the science by his numerous observations and discoveries. Descended of an ancient and noble family, originally of Sweden, but settled in Denmark, Tycho was born December 14, 1546, at Knub Strap, in the bailiwick of Schönen, the jurisdiction of which was then held by his father. When seven years old, he commenced the study of the classics, his education, as well as that of his brothers, being intrusted to private tutors. His father dying, his uncle sent him, in 1559, to study philosophy and rhetoric at Copenhagen, where it was intended to train him for some civil employment. The great eclipse of the sun on the 21st August 1560, happening at the precise time the astronomers foretold, he began to look upon astronomy as something divine; and purchasing the tables of Stadius, gained some notion of the theory of the planets. His thoughts were now wholly engrossed with astronomy; and though sent by his uncle, in 1562, to study jurisprudence at Leipsic, mathematics, and not law, were the subject of his private labors. It is told of him, that, having procured a small celestial globe, he was wont to wait till his tutor had gone to bed, in order to examine the constellations and learn their names; and that, when the sky was clear, he used to spend whole nights in viewing the stars. He abandoned the amusements and pleasures fitting for his age, and devoted his pocket-money to the purchase of mathematical and astronomical books, the perusal of which he persisted in, in spite of the remonstrances and rebukes of his preceptor. About this time he also began to apply himself to chemistry, less perhaps for the cause of the science, than with a view to discover the Philosopher's Stone and the grand Elixir of Life - a digression from his astronomical career, prompted no doubt by the natural supersition and enthusiasm of his constitution.

In 1571 he returned to Denmark; and was favored by his mother's brother, Steno Belle, a lover of learning, with a convenient place at the castle of Herritzvad, near Knub Strup, for conducting his observations and building a laboratory: but marrying a peasant girl beneath his rank, such a violent quarrel ensued between him and his relations, that Frederick II, king of Denmark, was obliged to interpose to reconcile them. In 1575, he began his travels through Germany, and proceeded as far as Venice, meeting with the kindliest attention from various philosophers and crowned heads. This attention, conjoined with certain offers made him by the Landgrave of Hesse, and the greater facility of procuring better apparatus, induced him to think of removing his family to Basil; but Frederick of Denmark, being informed of his design, and unwilling to lose such an ornament to his country, promised (to enable him to pursue his studies) to bestow upon him for life the island of Hveen in the Sound, to erect an observatory and laboratory there, and to defray all the expenses necessary for carrying on his designs. Tycho Brahe readily embraced this proposal; and, accordingly, the first stone of the observatory was laid in August 1576. The king also bestowed on him a pension of two thousand crowns, a fee in Norway, and a canonry, which brought him one thousand more. In this retreat he was visited by various princes; among others, by James VI of Scotland, when proceeding to Denmark to marry the princess Anne. This monarch, of literary memory, made the astronomer several presents, and with his own hand wrote some verses in his praise. In Uramenborg, for such he had styled his new erection, he framed that system 'of the universe which is yet known by his name; namely, that the earth remains fixed and immovable as the grand centre, and that the sun and all the heavenly bodies revolve around it - a doctrine the reverse of that of Copernicus, which all succeeding astronomers have adopted. But though mistaken in this conception, we are indebted to him for a more correct catalogue of the fixed stars; for several important discoveries respecting the motions of the moon and comets, and the refraction of the rays of light; and for valuable, improvements in astronomical instruments. Tycho was likewise a skillful chemist, and found in poetry his recreation from severer studies. His Latin poems are said to exhibit considerable merit; but his chemical manipulations partook too much of the alchemy of his day to be of use to future inquirers.