Renaissance astronomy in the news

Renaissance astronomy is in the news again, this time because a group of Czech and Danish scientists are testing the remains of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who died in 1601.  Brahe’s astronomical observations provided the foundation for the work of Johannes Kepler and other astronomers, but he is also remembered for the rumors which swirled around the cause of his death.

Brahe, a Danish nobleman who served as Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II’s royal astronomer, was an irascible character who lost part of his nose in a duel over mathematics and is said to have kept a pet moose.  Apart from his idiosyncrasies, he is remembered for his contributions to astronomy.  He designed and constructed his own astronomical instruments.  Tycho and his assistants made multiple observations using these instruments throughout the 1580’s and early 1590’s, compiling the most accurate data on stellar and planetary positions to date.  After Tycho’s death, Kepler was able to use Tycho’s observational records to devise a new model of planetary orbits and the Sun’s influence on them.  Special Collections owns a number of Tycho’s published works, including his Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata (Introductory exercises toward a restored astronomy) and his Astronomiæ instauratæ mechanica (Instruments for a restored astronomy).  These can be accessed via the library catalog or at Special Collections.

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