Monday, September 14, 2009

The Man With the Golden Nose

While taking an astronomy course at Ohio State many years ago, I learned about the great Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, the man with the golden nose. As a young man, he fought a sword duel with another young nobleman, with the unfortunate result being that Tycho Brahe lost most of his nose. This totally ruined Tycho’s marriage prospects among Danish noblewomen. He managed, however, to have a prosthetic golden nose fitted and married a woman of common birth, by whom he had several children. He also achieved great success as an astronomer, using nothing but the naked eye. His observations formed the basis of a great deal of the later work of Copernicus and Galileo.

The cause of Brahe’s death lies shrouded in mystery. One theory was that he was poisoned by a rival. Another is that, upon relocating to Prague, he had the misfortune of attending a banquet where it was customary for no guest to leave so long as the host remained seated. Legend had it that Brahe had a few too many beers and respected protocol a bit too much. His bladder burst and he died of urine poisoning. I’ve often wondered why Hollywood has never made a film about him.

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