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Tycho Brahe, The Bizarre 16th Century Astronomer Who Owned A Psychic Dwarf Slave

Updated July 23, 2020 11.7k views15 items

Who was Tycho Brahe? Even if you haven't heard his distinctive name, you know his work. One of history's most influential astronomers, the Danish scientist lived and worked in the mid 16th century. His contributions to the field included the discovery of supernovae and work on the properties of comets. But while Brahe’s work in astronomy is recognized, the man doesn't get enough credit for his incredible - and often ludicrous - biography.

Some of the facts about Tycho Brahe are hard to believe. He led the sort of life that, if it had been lived by a fictional character, would have been deemed "too unrealistic." Proving that truth is often stranger than fiction, Brahe walked a bizarre path from birth until his tragic death - which, coincidentally, may have inspired a famous work of literature. Tycho Brahe made a definite impact on the scientific world, but given the countless crazy details surrounding him, it’s a wonder he isn't discussed more often.

Read on to discover more about this fascinating historical figure.

  • He Lost His Nose In A Duel Over Math

    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    In 1566, Brahe got into a heated math-related debate with a colleague. The two agreed that the only way to settle their disagreement was with a duel - which Brahe lost when his opponent took off a chunk of his nose. The astronomer wore a metal covering over it for the rest of his life.

  • He Partied With His Prized Pet Moose

    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / via WIkimedia Commons

    Brahe's choice of pet can charitably be called eccentric: a moose. Brahe adored his moose; it slept in his house like a dog, and reportedly trotted alongside his carriage. Unfortunately, the unusual creature became a fixture at local parties, where it developed a taste for beer. One day, it had a bit too much and fell down the stairs drunk, eventually dying of its injuries.

  • He Had A Psychic Jester

    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Brahe's frequent companion, Jepp, was a dwarf jester. The astronomer had Jepp perform all manner of jokes and tricks for him, and made him sit under the table during meals for reasons that are probably best left unknown. Brahe was convinced that Jepp had psychic and precognitive abilities.

  • He Wore Copper, Gold, And Silver Noses

    Photo: Bengt Oberger / via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    After losing a portion of his nose in a duel, the wealthy Brahe commissioned a number of ornate fake noses, including some for special occasions. He wore a copper nose most of the time, but reportedly swapped in gold and silver coverings whenever the situation called for them.