Danish astronomer with missing nose did not die from mercury poisoning

November 19, 2012, 12:13 am

Tycho Brahe

Two years ago, TPR reported that the body of  Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) had been exhumed for tests to determine if the Danish astronomer had been poisoned by mercury. AFter all, in the early 1900s some mercury had been found in hair from his beard.

Earlier this week,  an article in Time magazine revealed that the evidence is in and does not point to mercury poisoning as causing Brahe’s death. After testing Brahe’s bone tissue, hair and clothing, a team of researchers from Denmark and the Czech Republic concluded that mercury was not present in toxic or significant levels:

“There was mercury in the beard, you will also have traces of mercury if you have a beard,” said lead investigator Dr. Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University in Denmark, to BBC News. “But the amount of mercury was as you see in people [alive today].”

Which leaves the alternate explanation. It seems that 11 days before his death, Brahe attended a huge feast, consuming massive amounts of alcohol. Sometime during the festivities he felt an urgent need to voice, but because of either manners or gluttony elected not to leave the table for a visit to the facilities. Whereupon he developed severe lower abdominal pain and difficulty urinating, and suffered for a week and a half before dying of complications from a ruptured bladder.

Incidentally, in life as well as after death, Brahe was renowned for his prosthetic nose made of gold and silver.(Part of his real proboscis had been severed in a duel with his cousin to settle an argument over mathematical formulas. However, during this recent exhumation scientists also tested a green stain around Brahe’s nasal bounds. What they found was not gold or silver, but copper and zinc. It appears that the artificial nose was made of brass.

Related post:

Mercury poisoning! Voluntary urinary retention! Clairvoyant drawfs! Intoxicated elk! The screenplay will practically write itself!

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