Historical detectives exhume a mystery

Scientists hope to put an end to conspiracy theories about astronomer’s death

November 15th, 2010 12:00 pm| by admin

Some mysteries refuse to remain buried. Today, Danish scientists reopened the grave of the astronomer Tycho Brahe, dead now for over 400 years. 

According to the Prague Daily Monitor, after removing the remains from Brahe’s tomb on Monday, scientists will study the samples at the anthropological depository of the National Museum of Prague until Friday, before returning the remains to the astronomer’s resting place in Tyn Church. 

Born Tyge Ottesen Brahe in 1546, Brahe was an astronomer, an alchemist, and one of the brightest scientific minds of the Renaissance. In 1572, he detected a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, a shocking discovery at the time, given the prevailing notion that the heavens were perfect and unchanging. The following year, he became the first person to describe a supernova. 

Brahe attended a Prague dinner party on 24 October 1601, shortly afterwards he fell ill and died eleven days later. The cause of death was written up as a urinary infection, but rumours of something more sinister persisted. 

Suspicion that Brahe may have been murdered persisted through the centuries and this is not the first time the theory has been scientifically tested. In 1901, a study of hair from his moustache showed high traces of mercury, adding weight to the argument that he might have been poisoned.

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