Astronomer Tycho Brahe 'not poisoned', says expert
The 16th-Century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is unlikely to have been poisoned, according to a researcher studying his remains.
The body was exhumed in 2010 in a bid to confirm the cause of his death.
Brahe was thought to have died of a bladder infection, but a previous exhumation found traces of mercury in hair from his beard.
However, the most recent tests have found the levels of mercury were not high enough to have killed him.
Some have speculated that he was killed on the orders of the Danish king, or by fellow astronomer Johannes Kepler, who also later gained fame.
A team of Danish and Czech scientists have been working to solve the mystery by analysing bone, hair and clothing samples.
"There was mercury in the beard, you will also have traces of mercury if you have a beard... But the amount of mercury was as you see in people [alive today]," Dr Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University in Denmark, told BBC News, who is leading the investigations.
Dr Vellev now thinks there was no foul play involved in Brahe's death.
"It is impossible that Tycho Brahe could have been murdered," he explained. When asked whether other poisons could have been used, Dr Vellev said: "If there were other poisons in the beard, we would have been able to see it in the analyses."
Instead, he says, the description given by Kepler of Brahe's death at the age of 54 matches up well with the progression of a severe bladder infection.
One widely told story about Brahe was that his bladder burst at a royal banquet when he had been too polite to leave the table and relieve himself. Accounts say he died 11 days later.
Tycho was born Tyge Ottesen Brahe in 1546 in Scania, which at the time was a Danish province, and studied astronomy at the University of Copenhagen, as well as German academic institutions.
He catalogued more than 1,000 new stars and his stellar and planetary observations helped lay the foundations of early modern astronomy.
On his death in 1601, the astronomer was buried at Tyn Church near Prague's Old Town Square.
His body has been exhumed before, in 1901. Tests on a sample of hair from his moustache, taken at that time, have been conducted as recently as the 1990s and indicated the presence of mercury.
Brahe's fame is also partly due to his personal life.
He lost the bridge of his nose in a duel while at the University of Rostock in 1566, and wore a metal prosthetic for the rest of his life.
Dr Vellev said tests now indicated that the prosthetic was in fact made of brass, not gold and silver as accounts had suggested.
Nachfolgende Fotos sind aus dem Jahre 1983, aufgenommen auf der Insel Hven bei Tycho Brahe Museum (Aufnahmen: H.Köhler/CENAP) Update: 14.12.2014
1546: On 14 December 1546, Tycho Brahe was born.
Brahe was a Danish astronomer whose work in developing astronomical instruments and in measuring and fixing the positions of stars paved the way for future discoveries.
His observations, the most accurate possible before the invention of the telescope, included a comprehensive study of the Solar System.
These images show the location of a suspected runaway companion star to a titanic supernova explosion witnessed in the year 1572 by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of that era. This discovery provides the first direct evidence supporting the long-held belief that Type Ia supernovae come from binary star systems containing a normal star and a burned-out white dwarf star. When the dwarf ultimately explodes by being overfueled by the companion star, the companion is slung away from the demised star. The Hubble Space Telescope played a key role by precisely measuring the surviving star's motion against the sky background.
Right: A Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 image of a small section of sky containing the candidate star. The star is like our Sun except several thousand million years older. It is moving through space at three times the speed of the other stars in its neighbourhood. Hubble's sharp view allowed for a measurement of the star's motion, based on images taken in 1999 and 2003. The image consists of a single greyscale Hubble exposure colourised with the help of data from Digitized Sky Survey 2.
Left: The Hubble view is superimposed on this wide-field view of the region enveloped by the expanding bubble of the supernova explosion; the bubble and candidate star are at approximately the same distance, 10 000 light-years. The star is noticeably offset from the geometric centre of the bubble. The colours in the Chandra X-Ray image of the hot bubble show different X-ray energies, with red, green and blue representing low, medium and high energies, respectively. (The image is cut off at the bottom because the southernmost region of the remnant fell outside the field of view of the Chandra camera.)