Nonfiction

History’s Greatest Chumps: Tycho Brahe

31 October 2013

Tycho Brahe was the first person of note to record their observations of the heavens in what we would now regard as a scientifically rigorous manner. The Danish nobleman and astronomer was also the last to do so without the aid of a telescope. He challenged the Aristotelian idea that stars were fixed, eternal points in the night sky, which as you can probably imagine was a pretty important discovery. Johannes Kepler, a hugely important astronomer in his own right, spent the bulk of his career as Brahe’s assistant.

But that shit’s boring. What’s really important is this: Tycho Brahe was fucking awesome.

He had a pet moose. It was completely tame and followed him around his castle and its grounds (that is to say, the entire island of Hven, which was given to Brahe by Danish King Fredrick II) in a fashion more befitting a dog than a moose. He included it in his many lavish parties, Brahe being a sort of Scandinavian pre-jazz Gatsby. He was such a top dude that he loaned it to a friend, who also wanted to have a cool, moose-themed shindig. However, the literal party animal drank too much beer, fell down a flight of stairs, and died—which sucks, but, you know, as far as moose deaths go, it sure beats getting eaten alive by a pack of rabid wolves.

Speaking of pets, Brahe’s other source of entertainment at these parties was his personal jester, a tiny little man named Jepp, who Tycho believed to be clairvoyant. Tycho was also into alchemy which, while being a totally dumb pseudo-science, is still pretty badass, and, hey, if it was good enough for Isaac Newton, who am I to judge?

Tycho Brahe also had no nose. Well, I mean, he started off with one, but on a chilly winter’s evening in 1566, everything changed. While studying at the University of Rostock, Brahe was attending a dance hosted by one of his professors. He began chatting with one Manderup Parsbjerg, who was himself a Dane of noble station. Somehow the conversation strayed from “How great is Denmark?” “Totally great!” to “You suck at maths!” “No, yousuck at maths!” and the two almost came to blows. A few weeks later, they ran into each other at another party, someone called someone a cocksucker and they arranged to duel two days later. Parsbjerg got in the first blow and sliced the bridge of Brahe’s nose. ‘Parsbo’, as his friends call him, was good enough not to murder Brahe right there and then and the two later kissed and made up, but that didn’t bring Tycho’s nose back. What did bring his nose back was Tycho motherfucking Brahe. Not content to live with a horrible deformity, Brahe used the considerable resources at his disposal to make a prosthetic replacement of gold and silver. Yes, the dwarf-loving, moose-befriending, hard-partying Dane was doing all that cool shit with a golden nose.

But don’t let this fool you. Tycho Brahe was a chump.

Brahe was at a banquet in Prague in 1601. Having imbibed much goon, he found that he really, really needed to piss. But Tycho’s classy upbringing got the better of him—as the feast dragged on and on, he refused to leave the table to relieve himself, considering such an action to be far too rude to even contemplate. When he finally came home, he was in agony and totally unable to drain the snake. Eleven days later, he died, either of renal failure, a burst bladder, or both.

So Tycho Brahe spends his whole life being pretty much the craziest/coolest guy ever, and then what does he do? He throws it all away because he’s too polite to get up and have a slash during a fucking dinner party! I would have even forgiven him for pissing his pants, but no, he had to go and die one of the most excruciating deaths possible, all for the sake of courtesy. I’m going to go have a little cry now.


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