(If you haven’t read my first post about Tycho, you may want to do so now.)
I have a theory. But let’s start with some background information:
–Tycho Brahe died on 24 October 1601, after contracting what appeared to be a kidney stone or uremia. Eleven days earlier, he had been present at a banquet in Paris — that was when the trouble began.
–Tycho and Johannes Kepler were extremely close colleagues, but they got off to a rocky start; Kepler had worked with Tycho’s mortal enemy, Reimarsus Ursus, and Tycho’s first interaction with Kepler was a series of highly-critical letters regarding his data sources and geocentric ideas.
–Kepler met Tycho in Prague in early 1600, where he worked for a time. The collaboration went well, with a few hitches: in particular, Tycho guarded his data very, very closely.
–After a fight with Tycho, Kepler left Prague for Graz, only to be banished in August. He returned to Prague towards the end of the 1600, now reconciled with Tycho.
–For much of 1601, Kepler worked for Tycho. His work involved writing scathing criticisms of Tycho’s already-dead rival Ursus.
–The month before Tycho’s death, he secured for Kepler a position on a new project for the emperor: a set of astronomical tables. Kepler still had very limited access to Tycho’s raw data.
–Soon after Tycho’s death, Kepler was appointed his successor as imperial astronomer. During the next decade, with Tycho’s data, he was able to derive his three famous Laws and became one of the most important scientists in history.
–Recent research on Tycho’s body has shown strong signs of mercury poisoning.
–Kepler’s father was a mercenary, and his mother was an herbalist and accused witch.
–Since childhood, Kepler had weak vision, limiting his ability to produce reliable observations of his own.
In November, scientists will be examining Tycho’s body in more detail, in order to test the mercury hypothesis. I eagerly await the results.
Update: This just in: Some historians and bloggers have seriously suggested this theory. A couple actually wrote a book about it.
For the record, I was kidding. Honest.