In 2010 the Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe’s body (famous for having a brass nose) was exhumed to determine the cause of his death. An earlier exhumation, in 1901, showed traces of mercury in the hair of his beard. However, it is now doubted that he was poisoned as the level of mercury is of that of any beard wearer/grower/afficionado alive today.
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, who is leading the investigations, told us.
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.
This is proof that we need a new Table Code for this millennium. How many other pointless deaths have there been due to over politeness? The campaign starts here!