Gangstas of the 16th Century

In the contest for “Most Baller Astronomer,” I present for your consideration: Tycho Brahe. Man, this cat was the Charlie Sheen of The Renaissance!

spinning starsYou’ve never heard of him? That’s not surprising. Most people know Johannes Kepler, who proved via mathematics that the sun was at the center of our galaxy, rather than everything revolving around the Earth. Ah, but behind every great man is a crazy alcoholic hiding his research.

Wait, that’s not a phrase. Perhaps this is one of the only times in history this actually happened.

Truth is, Kepler owed most of his theories to the fact that he inherited Brahe’s lifetime of research after Brahe died from forgetting to pee.

See, Brahe was partying it up one night but social etiquette said that nobody could take a bathroom break until the Baron called for one. So our boy kept drinking and drinking and holding it in … and died a week later from a kidney infection.

Dude. You’d think that someone who spent half his life partying would remember a thing like emptying his bladder.

Uraniborg Castle
Uraniborg Castle, Brahe’s bachelor pad

This is the guy who convinced the King of Denmark to give him his own 3-mile-wide island with a state-of-the-art astronomy lab that ought to be posthumously featured on “Cribs”. How he ever managed to study the night sky is a mystery, amid the debauchery of all the party guests. I haven’t yet mentioned the dwarf he hired to greet his guests and tell their fortunes. There was his pet Elk who wandered freely through the mansion until it got drunk and fell down a flight of stairs. The dude even had a fully-equipped torture dungeon, which probably sounded much better when he came up with the idea than it did during the next morning’s hangover.

His parties were legendary in Europe through the late 1500s, though I imagine some guests turned up just to get a peek at the dude with the fake silver-and-gold nose.

If Lee Marvin played Tycho Brahe
If Lee Marvin played Tycho Brahe

He’d lost his real nose in his college years, arguing with a Danish lord/punk named Parsbjerg. Tycho’s temper (and blood-alcohol level) being what it was, he flew into a rage and challenged Parsbjerg to a duel with swords. What else could he do – the guy had insulted one of his mathematical formulas!

What’s surprising, really, is that he learned his lesson after the first duel and didn’t proceed to challenge everyone else who mocked him that year. He was taking a lot of heat over an astrological prediction that went wrong.

This was 1566, the same year that Nostradamus died, and everyone wanted to get in on the prophesying game. Tycho published a little piece that used the upcoming lunar eclipse (in October, 1566) to predict the death of Turkey’s Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Fortune-telling is usually an easy gig: either A) the sultan would die shortly after this prediction and Tycho could claim to have forseen it, or B) the sultan would live and Tycho could tell the world that his prediction made the sultan take more care than he ordinarily would have. Win-win, right?

But, alas, Tycho might have been a whiz at astronomy and carousing, but he wasn’t great at current events; the Sultan had died a month before Tycho wrote up the prophesy!

It takes cajones to lose your nose defending a prediction that  wrong. I told you the man was baller!

Related websites:
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