Scientists have a reputation for being buzzkill nerds who get their kicks calling out inaccuracies in sci-fi movies on Twitter, but if you think science and raging are mutually exclusive, you’ve never heard of Tycho Brahe. The hard-drinking, hard-dueling astronomer partied like a rock star while also contributing enough important observations to the field to make any patiently toiling lab rat break their beakers in a jealous tantrum.

Only the Fanciest Fake Nose

Walking around 16th-century Europe with dueling disfigurements was the equivalent of a well-worn leather jacket, but Brahe wasn’t into it, so he commissioned a fake nose made of silver and gold, though later examinations showed evidence that he wore a brass nose as his everyday piece. You know how you only break out your fancy nose on special occasions.

His Psychic Jester

Despite being a man of science, Brahe had some unusual beliefs, including in the psychic ability of a dwarf named Jepp who he hired as his jester to sit under his table at meal times and occasionally predict the future. There’s little information out there about Jepp or how these two people could have possibly met, which is a shame because it must be a hell of a story.

His Marriage Caused a Scandal

A rock star like Brahe wasn’t about to marry some fussy noble lady. Naturally, he fell in love with a commoner, which caused something of a scandal, especially since marrying her would mean renouncing his own nobility. He wasn’t about to go that far, but Danish law did allow common-law marriages, requiring them to live in sin for three years before being legally recognized as husband and wife, which was no small scandal of its own.

He Had His Own Science Island

Ven, Sweden

(Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons)

By 1575, the Danish king was worried Brahe would leave his homeland for scientifically greener pastures, so he gave him an entire island on which to build a laboratory in what is now Sweden, where Brahe immediately began bossing around the very confused residents who had no idea they suddenly had a lord. He even built his own printing press and paper mill, some of the first in Scandinavia, on the island, just to publish his research.

He Was Literally the Official Bohemian Astronomer

Prague

(A.Savin/Wikimedia Commons)

Today, “bohemian” describes a person who has a trust fund but wears nothing but scarves from thrift stores, but Bohemia used to be a real place, so where better for the hardest-partying scientist to science than the kingdom of art and not showering? After the Danish king died and Brahe found that he just did not vibe with the new one, the Bohemian king invited him to Prague, where he became the official imperial astronomer. We should have those again.

He Died As He Lived

Brahe's grave

(Robert Scarth/Wikimedia Commons)

That might be why, when Brahe died in 1601, it was immediately suspected he was poisoned, either by the king or his ambitious assistant, Johannes Kepler. It was more likely some kind of kidney or bladder problem, which is why it was also rumored at the time that his bladder had burst because he refused to stop drinking long enough to pee at a party. Fortunately, he’d already written his own very prescient epitaph: “He lived like a sage and died like a fool.”

Champagne Supernova

Between parties, Brahe did manage to do some science. One of his most important contributions was his observation of a supernova, which proved that stars did change, contrary to the prevailing belief at the time. He also created his own model of the solar system in which the sun orbited earth but the rest of the planets orbited the sun, and while that turned out not to be accurate, it was still pretty good for the 16th century.

Instrumental to the Field

Possibly Brahe’s biggest contribution was his work with instruments like the quadrant and the sextant. He was in the last generation of astronomers who worked without telescopes, so whatever instrumentation they could get their hands on was crucial, and Brahe’s were better and more accurate than anybody’s. Equally important was just his method of using these instruments to record systematic, rigidly timed observations, no matter how far he had to stumble to the lab.

Life After Death

Astronomiae Instaurate

(Skokloster Castle/Wikimedia Commons)

The extent of Brahe’s work wasn’t even known until after his death because he refused to tell anyone about it, let alone let them see it. This drove Kepler pretty crazy, to the point that, upon his boss’s death, he swiped his data before his hilariously complicated estate could be settled. This enabled Kepler to “move astronomy further forward than anyone before him,” perhaps as a final party favor.

Top image: Skokloster Castle/Wikimedia Commons

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