November 15, 2010

On This Date in! in 2010, scientists converged in Prague to exhume the remains of the 16th century astronomer bad-boy Tycho Brahe in an effort to solve the mystery of his sudden death. When he died in 1601, it was believed that his bladder had burst due to the copious amounts of alcoholic beverages he’d downed at a party he was attending. Why didn’t he go to the bathroom? At the time it was considered rude to leave a party while the host was still at the table and Brahe was a stickler for the observed courtesies. So his bladder burst and he died at the table. In 1901 scientists first exhumed his remains because of persistent rumors that he hadn’t died because of a burst bladder, but instead was poisoned by his jealous scientific rival, Johanes Kepler. The scientist did find mercury in his remains and announced that poisoning was possible. In 2010, with the new technology available, scientists re-exhumed his body (with the blessings of both the Brahe family and the Kepler family) and found that the mercury inside Brahe’s remains was in proportion with the trace amounts residing in people of that era and wasn’t enough to kill the man, but that a burst bladder theory was the most likely culprit.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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