Hit Man May Have Offed Fabled Scholar

Decoded diary points to distant cousin as Tycho Brahe's killer
By Victoria Floethe,  Newser User
Posted Jan 17, 2009 5:45 PM CST
A Tycho Brahe bust.   (Flickr)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Seminal Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe died in 1601 of mercury poisoning, a demise that funeral orators called "unexpected" and modern scholars are calling murder, Der Spiegel reports. As they plan to exhume Brahe's body, one specialist says he has uncovered the killer's diary: "It contains the details of the attack and, indirectly, the murderer's confession," said German studies expert Peter Andersen.

Andersen says a distant cousin of Brahe killed him for Denmark's King Christian IV—who may have been Brahe's bastard child. The suspected murderer even littered his diary with "mea culpa" and recorded a second visit to a dying Brahe in cryptic code. Some dismiss the theory, saying Brahe likely poisoned himself, but it's the Danes who are sweating most: They revere Christian IV and praise him in their national anthem.
(Read more Tycho Brahe stories.)