Preview: Research of the tomb and relics of Tycho Brahe
A new exhibition looks at whether the astronomer was murdered
Posted: February 13, 2013
A longtime research cooperation between Danish and Czech scientists on Tycho Brahe has shed new light on the mysterious death of one of history's most famous astronomers. The results are currently on display in the exhibition "Research of the Tomb and Relics of Tycho Brahe" at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
Brahe, a Danish nobleman, is known mostly as an astronomer, astrologer and alchemist. His connection with the Czech Republic started in 1597, when he was invited by the Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II to Prague to work as an official imperial astronomer. He died four years later, Oct. 24, 1601, and was buried at the Church of Our Lady Before Týn.
His death has always been the subject of speculation. The most popular explanation is that a ruptured bladder killed him. Another is acute mercury poisoning, administered accidentally as a medicine by his own hand - or intentionally by somebody else.
Exactly 409 years after Brahe's death, in November 2010, Czech and Danish scientists opened the grave of the father of modern observational astronomy to take samples of his bones, hair, teeth and textiles.
When: Through Feb. 22
Where: Foyer of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Národní 3, Prague 1
An important cooperation with the Nuclear Physics Institute at the Academy of Sciences assisted in carrying out research on the relics through advanced nuclear analytic methods. This approach enabled the scientists to get new results, proving that Brahe did not die of acute or chronic mercury poisoning.
The conclusions of the survey are sorted in the exhibition on boards in the foyer of the Academy of Sciences. Visitors get to know more about Brahe's stay in Prague, about the first opening of his tomb in 1901, and about the archeological survey of the bones and textiles during the opening of the tomb in 2010.
"The main motivation for this survey and exhibition was the speculation about the death of Brahe," said Petr Lukáš, the director of the Nuclear Physics Institute. "But the technical results are not the only goal of the exhibition. It also shows the significant professional cooperation in different areas of science" - archeologists, anthropologists, historians, doctors, physicists and chemists.
And their discovery means we can now start exploring new theories about what may have killed him.
Monika Ticháčková can be reached at