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On Tycho's Island
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  • 72 b/w illus. 4 maps
  • Page extent: 374 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.5 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521008846 | ISBN-10: 0521008840)

  • Published October 2002

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$54.99 (C)

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), the premier patron-practitioner of science in sixteenth-century Europe, established a new role of scientist as administrator, active reformer, and natural philosopher. This book explores his wide range of activities, which encompass much more than his reputed role of astronomer. Christianson broadens this singular perspective by portraying him as Platonic philosopher, Paracelsian chemist, Ovidian poet, and devoted family man. From his private island in Denmark, Tycho Brahe used patronage, printing, friendship, and marriage to incorporate men and women skilled in science, technology, and the fine arts into his program of cosmic reform. This pioneering study includes capsule biographies of two dozen individuals, including Johannes Kepler, Willebrord Snel, Willem Blaeu, several artists, two bishops, a rabbi, and various technical specialists, all of whom helped shape the culture of the Scientific Revolution. Under Tycho's leadership, their teamwork achieved breakthroughs in astronomy, scientific method, and research organization that were essential to the birth of modern science. John Robert Christianson is research professor of history at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he taught history for thirty years. In 1985, Christianson was awarded the Bronze Medal of the League of Finnish-American Societies and received the Alf Mjoen Prize in 1989. In 1995, he was dubbed Knight of the Royal Norweigian Order of Merit by King Harald II. Christianson is a former fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and has held grants from the American Philosophical Society and the National Endowment of the Humanities, among others. He has traveled throughout Scandanavia and has written, edited, or translated several books about Scandanavia and Scandanavian-American topics, as well as articles in Scientific American, Isis, and other journals.


Preface; Part I. On Tycho's Island: Introduction; 1. In King Frederick's service, 1575–6; 2. Junker and peasants, 1576–81; 3. Among friends, 1570–6; 4. Founding the familia, 1576–84; 5. Breakthrough, 1584–7; 6. The problem of continuity, 1580–91; 7. The school of Europe, 1591–3; 8. Magdalene and Calumny, 1593–7; 9. The tempest, 1597; 10. Epilogue: in search of Maecenas, 1597–9; 11. Legacy; Part II. Tycho Brahe's Coworkers: Bibliographical directory; Glossary of technical terms.


"Before there were island universes, there was Tycho's island, where a new kind of observatory and research institution linked a Danish island to the planets and stars. What I love best about John Christianson's book is the level of detail his scholarship probes. If you want to know who taught the incomparable Tycho his trigonometry or who engineered the hydraulic system that delivered running water to all the rooms in the castle of Uraniborg, you'll find their names and follow their lively adventures here." Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter

"...Christianson puts Tycho's scientific achievements in the context of the daily life, intellectual milieu, and courtly politics of the era...Christianson provides a double share of fascinating insights into the era and the career of perhaps the greatest astronomer of the pre-telescope era. A gold mine for anyone interested in one of the giants of Renaissance science." Kirkus

"16th century scientist Tycho Brahe receives relatively little mention in modern times: this explores his entire range of scientific activities which go beyond his better-known astronomical explorations. A well-rounded portrait of Brahe the man as well as his many scientific interests and his works on his private island is presented in a study which includes intriguing facts on his contemporaries." Midwest Book Review

"On Tycho's Island brims with intriguing material...." Physics Today

"Anyone with an interest in astronomy or the history of science will enjoy this tale, thanks to Christianson's lively style and thorough research." Dan Falk, Toronto Globe & Mail

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