Brahe death not a mystery, not poison

Astronomer Tycho Brahe ‘not poisoned’, says expert
The 16th-Century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is unlikely to have been poisoned, according to a researcher studying his remains.

Brahe was thought to have died of a bladder infection, but a previous exhumation found traces of mercury in hair from his beard.

However, the most recent tests have found the levels of mercury were not high enough to have killed him.

Some have speculated that he was killed on the orders of the Danish king, or by fellow astronomer Johannes Kepler, who also later gained fame.

A team of Danish and Czech scientists have been working to solve the mystery by analysing bone, hair and clothing samples.

“There was mercury in the beard, you will also have traces of mercury if you have a beard… But the amount of mercury was as you see in people [alive today],” Dr Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University in Denmark, told BBC News, who is leading the investigations.


Dr Vellev now thinks there was no foul play involved in Brahe‘s death.

The evidence that exists does not run counter to the descriptions of how he died. So, there seems to be no basis to suspect it was something other than that. Stories of intrigue and crimes regarding the deaths of famous people abound. Modern forensics applied to ancient remains can help us figure out a bit more but we always must keep in mind today’s interpretations may not apply to the situation back then. We don’t have ALL the facts, can only make the best guess and we will likely never know for sure. But the stories of intrigue endure regardless of facts to the contrary.

Astronomer Tycho Brahe 1546 – 1601

  4 comments for “Brahe death not a mystery, not poison

  1. macdoktor
    November 15, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    So much for the book “Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History’s Greatest Scientific Discoveries”. Fortunately I didn’t pay much for it.

    • November 15, 2012 at 7:46 PM

      No good eh? One of those speculative history things?

      • macdoktor
        November 16, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        The entire premise of the book is that Kepler poisoned Brahe. The authors constantly quote from Kepler’s third-person writing about himself wherein he explains what a rotten person he is based on his horoscope. They paint Kepler as being so desperately narcissistic or even psychotic that he has to kill Brahe and steal Brahe’s data in order to finish his own work and assure his place in history.

        Kepler’s self-loathing reminds me of a bad movie I saw about Martin Luther, shut in his cell and warring with Satan–”Leave me foul demon, I can feel your hot breath on my neck!” Or words to that effect.

        It isn’t Holy Blood, Holy Grail–that was far more entertaining. But both suffer from having their fundamental “factual” premises later destroyed.

  2. LovleAnjel
    November 16, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    The idea will probably stick around, though. Some people still believe Salieri killed Mozart. Why do people need murder and conspiracies to get into history?

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