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On Tycho's Island


  • 70 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 464 pages
  • Size: 229 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.68 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521101066)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published February 2009

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$67.95 (G)

A Platonic philosopher, Paracelsian chemist, Ovidian poet, and devoted family man, Tycho Brahe was the last Renaissance man and the first great organizer of modern science. This book provides the fullest portrait available of the research and cultural interests of the man who became the premier patron-practitioner of science in sixteenth-century Europe. Starting from Brahe's well reputed role of astronomer, author Christianson adds lesser known details of the man who was both a geodetic surveyor as well as a garden designer, and ultimately established a new role of scientist as administrator, active reformer, and natural philosopher. Coverage reveals how from his private island in Denmark, 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. Through their teamwork, they achieved breakthroughs in astronomy, scientific method, and research organization that were essential to the birth of modern science. Also included are over 100 capsule biographies of Tycho's clients, coworkers, and friends, including Johannes Kepler, Willebrord Snel, Willem Blaeu, several bishops, and numerous technical specialists all of whom helped shape the culture of the Scientific Revolution. This pioneering exposition will appeal to science history buffs, especially those with an interest in the late Renaissance and will inspire anyone who has a passion for science and a penchant for the world of ideas. John Robert Christianson received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He was dubbed Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by King Harald II in 1995.


Preface; Part I. On Tycho's Island: Introduction; 1. In King Frederick's service (1575–1576); 2. Junker and peasants (1576–1581); 3. Among friends (1570–1576); 4. Founding the familia (1576–1584); 5. Breakthrough (1584–1587); 6. The problem of continuity (1580–1591); 7. The school of Europe (1591–1593); 8. Magdalene and calumny (1593–1597); 9. The Tempest (1597); 10. Epilogue: in search of Maecenas (1597–1601); 11. Legacy; Part II. Tycho Brahe's coworkers: Bibliography; Index.


"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

"...Christianson provides a double share of fascinating insights into one 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 Reviews

"brims with intriguing material." Physics Today

"...explains how Brahe built Uraniborg with labor from Hven's farm village of Tuna; what exalted friendships Brahe established, and what his Latin verse says about that extended familia; how Brahe's complex household, observatory, printing press, map-making projects and chemistry labs operated; and how the Uraniborg group disseminated its methods, ideas and students across northern Europe....Christianson's narrative combines the intrigue of Reformation courts with the excitement of early modern science." Publisher's Weekly

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

"A well-rounded portrait of presented in a study which includes intriguing facts on his contemporaries." The Midwest Book Review

On Tycho's Island allows us to appreciate Uraniborg as the site of enormous practical and theoretical advances in astronomy and as a model for many later scientific institutions." Nicholas Jardine, Science

"...Christianson has resotred the noble Dane - idiosyncratic, brilliantly determined, sometimes ruthless, and humanly vulnerable - to his late-sixteenth- century environment. It is worth much more than a sentence, but it must be added that, in addition to the monographic account just sketched, Christianson also offers a great service to scholarship by presenting in the book's second part of a lengthy set of bio-bibliographies for almost all of the principal players." Sixteenth Century Journal

"...Christianson's catalogue provides younger scholars with a treasure chest of nuggets they can use to expand our knowledge of early modern astronomy and its intricate social nexus. I have no doubt that Christianson's book will serve as a reference point for future historians of astronomy." Nature

"...well-written and great fun to read." Annals of Science

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