16th Century Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe Exhumed

Image of Tycho Brahe from the University of Texas at Austin Department of Astronomy image collection

This is another one of those stories that comes along every so often that allows me to geek out from both the history and science perspective (and in this case, my actual career science field - astronomy!). Tycho is one of those interesting characters of science that seems to cause endless fascination, so I'm not surprised to see this. And yes, he's the one who famously had a metal replacement nose after losing the flesh one in a duel!

From The BBC:
Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe exhumed to solve mystery

Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman who served as royal mathematician to the Bohemian Emperor Rudolf II.

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

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

Tycho was born Tyge Ottesen Brahe in 1546 in Scania, which at the time was a Danish province, and studied astronomy at the University of Copenhagen, as well as German academic institutions.

He catalogued more than 1,000 new stars and his stellar and planetary observations helped lay the foundations of early modern astronomy.

Professor Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University, is leading the team of scientists and archaeologists which opened the tomb in Tyn Church on Monday.

He says he hopes to get better samples of hair and bones than were taken in 1901.

The use of the latest technology to test the samples may also help shed more light on the mystery of the astronomer's death, although Professor Vellev is not promising anything.

"Perhaps, we will be able to come close to an answer, but I don't think we will get a final answer to that question," he said.

The scientists also hope to determine what kind of metal Brahe's prosthesis was made of - it was commonly believed to have been gold and silver, but others suggested it might have contained copper.

Full article

More articles (all of the articles have interesting pictures):
NPR: Danish Astronomer's Remains Exhumed In Prague
Scientific American: Was Tycho Brahe poisoned? 16th-century astronomer exhumed--again

And finally, a bunch of photos and some video from the research are available on the Opening of Tycho Brahe's Tomb pages from Aarhus University

Five years!

I just remembered that today is the fifth anniversary of this blog! Yay!


I first caught wind of the awesomeness that is W00tstock through following Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage on Twitter (@wilw and @donttrythis) and kept hoping they would find their way to Austin eventually. I would say that Austin can hold its own as a very geeky city and was deserving of this celebration of all things geek. It took a year, but they finally made it! I was disappointed that Wil couldn't be here (he's been filming The Big Bang Theory and Eureka - and since I love those shows, I forgive him), but boy did Austin hit the jackpot with our guest 'Wil Wheaton' - we had Neil Gaiman! Although I still haven't read the Sandman comics, I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman's for a while now. I've listened to several of his works on audiobooks, including several that he has read himself. Having an author read their own works is sometimes hit-or-miss, but Neil Gaiman is a wonderful reader so getting to hear him read a couple of short stories live was a real treat!

I also got a picture of him wearing a monkey hat. Yeah, a monkey hat (you had to be there to really understand...):

(click for a larger version and to see the amazing number of views the photo has had since Neil retweeted me when I posted it to Twitter - major fangirl geek out moment!!)

And a short video of Neil giving an unenthusiastic pirate "Arr" with the monkey hat on - again, you had to be there to understand (including why he was pretending to be very put out to have to wear the hat and say "Arr"):

And here's my full set of photos on Flickr

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time and I'm pretty sure I haven't laughed that hard and that long for quite a while! And it was sure a much better way to spend election night than sitting at home hearing the results come in.