Cover image for On Tycho's island : Tycho Brahe and his assistants, 1570-1601
On Tycho's island : Tycho Brahe and his assistants, 1570-1601
Christianson, J. R. (John Robert)
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 451 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB36.B8 C54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A Platonic philosopher, Paracelsian chemist, Ovidian poet, and devoted family man, Tycho Brahe was the last Renaissance man and the first great organizer of modern science. This book provides the fullest portrait available of the research and cultural interests of the man who became the premier patron-practitioner of science in sixteenth-century Europe. Starting from Brahe's well reputed role of astronomer, author Christianson adds lesser known details of the man who was both a geodetic surveyor as well as a garden designer, and ultimately established a new role of scientist as administrator, active reformer, and natural philosopher. Coverage reveals how from his private island in Denmark, Brahe used patronage, printing, friendship, and marriage to incorporate men and women skilled in science, technology, and the fine arts into his program of cosmic reform. Through their teamwork, they achieved breakthroughs in astronomy, scientific method, and research organization that were essential to the birth of modern science. Also included are over 100 capsule biographies of Tycho's clients, coworkers, and friends, including Johannes Kepler, Willebrord Snel, Willem Blaeu, several bishops, and numerous technical specialists all of whom helped shape the culture of the Scientific Revolution. This pioneering exposition will appeal to science history buffs, especially those with an interest in the late Renaissance and will inspire anyone who has a passion for science and a penchant for the world of ideas. John Robert Christianson received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He was dubbed Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by King Harald II in 1995.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) became his era's "patron of science par excellence": he used his smarts, aristocratic status and access to Denmark's king, Frederick II, to turn the island of Hven into Uraniborg, a community built for the advancement of arts and sciences, staffed with scholars invited from all over Europe. Christianson, a historian at Iowa's Luther College, explains how Brahe built Uraniborg with labor from Hven's farm village of Tuna; what exalted friendships Brahe established, and what his Latin verse says about that extended familia; how Brahe's complex household, observatory, printing press, mapmaking projects and chemistry labs operated; and how the Uraniborg group disseminated its methods, ideas and students across northern Europe. Because Brahe's wife was a commoner, his sons could not inherit all his privileges; he spent much of the 1590s on schemes to ensure that Uraniborg would survive him. But his plans crashed under Frederick's absolutist successor, who persecuted Brahe's friends and drove him along with his enterprise to German exile. Christianson devotes 130 pages to a "Biographical Directory" of Uraniborg associates, including Brahe's most famous collaborator, solar-system theorist Johannes Kepler. If the brief sketches there seem aimed at fellow historians, the front half of the book will certainly interest a broader audience: Christianson's narrative combines the intrigue of Reformation courts with the excitement of early modern science. It was in this period that experimental methods and European technology found their real launching pads. Without Brahe, Brahe's friends and his citadel of research, such developments would have happened elsewhere and differently--if at all. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Part I On TychoÆs Island: Introduction
1 In King FrederickÆs service (1575û1576)
2 Junker and peasants (1576û1581)
3 Among friends (1570û1576)
4 Founding the familia (1576û1584)
5 Breakthrough (1584û1587)
6 The problem of continuity (1580û1591)
7 The school of Europe (1591û1593)
8 Magdalene and calumny (1593û1597)
9 The Tempest (1597)
10 Epilogue: in search of Maecenas (1597û1601)
11 Legacy
Part II Tycho BraheÆs coworkers: Bibliography