December 14, 1546 - October 24, 1601: Age 54
Tycho Brahe is known today as an astronomer and alchemist, but there were many other interesting things to know about him. He was a nobleman, and was born a twin, but his brother died before they were baptized. He had a metal nose of his own design, as he’d lost the real one in a duel. He was immensely rich and kept a clairvoyant dwarf who sat under his table during dinner (I am not making this up!). He married a commoner for love, a difficult thing as it meant his children were commoners and could not inherit his name, title or property. He also owned a tame moose, who died on a visit to a friend. During dinner, the moose drank a lot of beer and fell downstairs. “Despite the best care, the moose had died shortly thereafter.“ (Again, I am not making this up!)
A banquet was also Brahe’s undoing. He was having supper at a friend’s house and, although he drank plenty of wine, he was too polite to get up to pee. When he finally left the table he found he could not pee; his bladder was blocked from waiting too long. For days after that he could only let out small dribbles of water, and suffered from pain and dizziness. Finally he died. Traditionally it’s believed he died from urine poisoning, but a 1996 analysis of hair taken from his remains shows that he must have ingested a large dose of mercury about 20 hours before his death, possibly as a medicine for his illness or perhaps he was poisoned - some believe by Johannes Kepler, who worked for him at the time and was appointed his successor as imperial mathematician. We’ll never know. During his final illness Brahe is said to have told Kepler "Ne frustra vixisse videar!", "Let me not seem to have lived in vain”.