Tycho Brahe


Tycho Brahe : biography

14 December 1546 – 24 October 1601

Tycho considered astrology to be a subject of great importance.See e.g. Kragh, pp. 234–41. In addition to his contributions to astronomy, he was famous in his own time also for his contributions to medicine; his herbal medicines were in use as late as the 1900s.Kragh, p. 243.

Although the research community Tycho created in Uraniborg did not survive him, while it existed it was both a research center and an institution of education, functioning as a graduate school for Danish and foreign students in both astronomy and medicine. Tycho’s success as a scientist also depended on his adroit political skills, to obtain patronage and funding for his work.

The crater Tycho on the Moon is named after him, as is the crater Tycho Brahe on Mars. The Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen is also named after him.

HEAT1X-TYCHO BRAHE is the name of a manned private spacecraft to be launched by Copenhagen Suborbitals. Other things named after him include a bar in Zagreb and a ferry operating between Sweden and Denmark.

Tychonic astronomy after Tycho

Galileo’s 1610 telescopic discovery that Venus shows a full set of phases refuted the pure geocentric Ptolemaic model. After that it seems 17th century astronomy mostly converted to geo-heliocentric planetary models that could explain these phases just as well as the heliocentric model could, but without the latter’s disadvantage of the failure to detect any annual stellar parallax that Tycho and others regarded as refuting it.Taton & Wilson 1989 The three main geo-heliocentric models were the Tychonic, the Capellan with just Mercury and Venus orbiting the Sun such as favoured by Francis Bacon, for example, and the extended Capellan model of Riccioli with Mars also orbiting the Sun whilst Saturn and Jupiter orbit the fixed Earth. But the Tychonic model was probably the most popular, albeit probably in what was known as ‘the semi-Tychonic’ version with a daily rotating Earth. This model was advocated by Tycho’s ex-assistant and disciple Longomontanus in his 1622 Astronomia Danica that was the intended completion of Tycho’s planetary model with his observational data, and which was regarded as the canonical statement of the complete Tychonic planetary system.

A conversion of astronomers to geo-rotational geo-heliocentric models with a daily rotating Earth such as that of Longomontanus may have been precipitated by Francesco Sizzi’s 1613 discovery of annually periodic seasonal variations of sunspot trajectories across the sun’s disc. They appear to oscillate above and below its apparent equator over the course of the four seasons. This seasonal variation is explained much better by the hypothesis of a daily rotating Earth together with that of the sun’s axis being tilted throughout its supposed annual orbit than by that of a daily orbiting sun, if not even refuting the latter hypothesis because it predicts a daily vertical oscillation of a sunspot’s position, contrary to observation. This discovery and its import for heliocentrism, but not for geo-heliocentrism, is discussed in the Third Day of Galileo’s 1632 Dialogo.See p345-56 of Stillman Drake’s 1967 Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems. But see Drake’s Sunspots, Sizzi and Scheiner’ in his 1970 Galileo Studies for its critical discussion of Galileo’s misleading presentation of this phenomenon. However, prior to that discovery, in the late 16th century the geo-heliocentric models of Ursus and Roslin had featured a daily rotating Earth, unlike Tycho’s geo-static model, as indeed had that of Heraclides in antiquity, for whatever reason.

The fact that Longomontanus’s book was republished in two later editions in 1640 and 1663 no doubt reflected the popularity of Tychonic astronomy in the 17th century. Its adherents included John Donne and the atomist and astronomer Pierre Gassendi.

Johannes Kepler published the Rudolphine Tables containing a star catalog and planetary tables using Tycho’s measurements. Hven island appears west uppermost on the base.

The ardent anti-heliocentric French astronomer Jean-Baptiste Morin devised a Tychonic planetary model with elliptical orbits published in 1650 in a simplified, Tychonic version of the Rudolphine Tables.Taton & Wilson (1989, pp. 42, 50, 166). Some acceptance of the Tychonic system persisted through the 17th century and in places until the early 18th century; it was supported (after a 1633 decree about the Copernican controversy) by "a flood of pro-Tycho literature" of Jesuit origin. Among pro-Tycho Jesuits, Ignace Pardies declared in 1691 that it was still the commonly accepted system, and Francesco Blanchinus reiterated that as late as 1728.See in Christine Schofield, The Tychonic and Semi-Tychonic World Systems, pages 33-44 in R Taton & C Wilson (eds) (1989), The General History of Astronomy, Vol.2A. Persistence of the Tychonic system, especially in Catholic countries, has been attributed to its satisfaction of a need (relative to Catholic doctrine) for "a safe synthesis of ancient and modern". After 1670, even many Jesuit writers only thinly disguised their Copernicanism. But in Germany, Holland, and England, the Tychonic system "vanished from the literature much earlier".See in Christine Schofield, The Tychonic and Semi-Tychonic World Systems, pages 33-44 in R Taton & C Wilson (eds) (1989), The General History of Astronomy, Vol.2A.

James Bradley’s discovery of stellar aberration, published in 1729, eventually gave direct evidence excluding the possibility of all forms of geocentrism including Tycho’s. Stellar aberration could only be satisfactorily explained on the basis that the Earth is in annual orbit around the Sun, with an orbital velocity that combines with the finite speed of the light coming from an observed star or planet, to affect the apparent direction of the body observed.