June 12, 2013

"Tycho Brahe Died from Pee, Not Poison."

News from the 16th century. I know the linked story was published last November, and I'm sorry I didn't get it out more quickly, which is perhaps something Tycho Brahe might have said (in Polish).
Brahe was long thought to have died from a bladder infection after politeness kept him from excusing himself to use the bathroom during a royal banquet in October 1601, causing his bladder to rupture. However, scientists who opened Brahe's grave in 1901 to mark the 300th anniversary of his death claimed to find mercury in his remains, fueling rumors that the astronomer was poisoned. Some even accused [his not-yet-famous assistant Johannes] Kepler of the crime.

But the new results don't point to any such intrigue. While analyses of Brahe's teeth are not yet complete, tests on his bones and beard hairs show that mercury concentrations in his body were not high enough to have killed him....
Also discovered: Brahe's fake nose was probably made of brass, not silver.

Anyway, it was Kepler who gave the original the first-hand account of this story:
... Tycho had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette. After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except eventually in very small quantities and with excruciating pain.... Before dying, he urged Kepler to finish the Rudolphine Tables and expressed the hope that he would do so by adopting Tycho's own planetary system, rather than that of Copernicus. It was reported that Brahe himself had written his own epitaph, stating "He lived like a sage and died like a fool."
I arrived at this story today because I was worried about people who might think too much about Rand Paul and take Gabriel Gomez's boast too seriously. 

22 comments:

jacksonjay said...


More pee agony!

sydney said...

I wonder if it was from prostatic hypertrophy or prostatitis from gonorrhea. Of course, certain poisons could do this to a man, too, so poisoning isn't entirely ruled out.

sydney said...

I should clarify- not necessarily mercury, but other poisons, like belladonna.

Scott M said...

LOL - The only way I know Tycho Brahe is that he's "the unlucky Dane from Prague" according to Dick Sullivan, alien hiding in human form, teaching at a small college in Ohio.

edutcher said...

When the Plains Indian tribes held a council, you didn't leave, either.

LarsPorsena said...

..and of course he had the 'nose' thing.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I'll bet his insides smelled like asparagus.

Tibore said...

Well now... if it weren't for urine, I would've never thought to compare a modern politician with the famous Tycho Brahe.

But really, when considering politics, all any politician has that can measure up to a historically impactful scientist is the excrement they leave.

Pogo said...

I've taken care of two women who developed bladder overdistension and were unable to pee, just like this. One had pain, the other did not. Both required catheters for a few weeks, and thankfully the bladder muscle revived.

This does happen in men, too, more often in older guys from an enlarged prostate, sometimes triggered by OTC antihistamines, rather than delayed voiding.

Bob Ellison said...

Delayed voting causes distended bladder syndrome?

Palladian said...

But really, when considering politics, all any politician has that can measure up to a historically impactful scientist is the excrement they leave.

Impacted excrement.

Larry J said...

Palladian said...
But really, when considering politics, all any politician has that can measure up to a historically impactful scientist is the excrement they leave.


The biggest difference between most politicians and a bag of excrement is the bag.

Hagar said...

Tycho Brahe
Astronomer Tycho Brahe, born Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was a Danish nobleman known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations. He was born in Scania, then part of Denmark, now part of modern-day Sweden.

Wikipedia
Born: December 14, 1546, Knutstorp Castle, Sweden
Died: October 24, 1601, Prague, Czech Republic
Full name: Tyge Ottesen Brahe
Nationality: Danish
Discovered: SN 1572
Education: University of Copenhagen, University of Rostock

LYNNDH said...

Mercury was used to treat Syphilis. Maybe he was poking where he shouldn't.

LYNNDH said...

Mercury was used to treat Syphilis. Maybe he was poking where he shouldn't.

Hagar said...

IIRC, his nose got sliced off in a duel.Hence the metal replacement.

SteveR said...

I always thought he was a decent sort. Some of those astronomers just thought the world revolved around them.

Astro said...

Back in the 70s my Astronomy professor in college taught that Tycho died of a burst bladder and that his nose was brass. This is 40 year old news.

Edwin Hubble, however, had brass balls, so to speak; he was a prize-fighting boxer, in college. He of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Smilin' Jack said...

I was worried about people who might think too much about Rand Paul and take Gabriel Gomez's boast too seriously.

Blessed are the poor in pee, for they shall meet Darwin.

whswhs said...

The accounts I've read claim that he had two fake noses: A brass one for everyday wear and a silver one for special occasions. He was a nobleman from one of Denmark's four most powerful families, right up there with the Rosencrantzes and the Guildensterns. He could afford to have more than one nose!

(I wonder if anyone else has ever written that sentence?)

Anthony said...

Is that even possible, to die from "holding it in" too long? That just seems. . . .odd to me. I would think it was more like stones or something causing an obstruction and someone just attributing it to holding it in too long.

ampersand said...

I'm sorry I didn't get it out more quickly, which is perhaps something Tycho Brahe might have said (in Polish).


???????

Why would Tycho Brache say anything in Polish? He was a Dane living in Prague.