Hven

Map_of_Hven_from_copper_etching_of_Blaeu_Atlas_1663(1)

Map of Hven from the Blaeu Atlas 1663, based on maps drawn by Tycho Brahe in the previous century. Wikimedia Commons.

In the spring of 2017, honors students in my HSCI 3013 class each wrote pages on some aspect of Tycho’s life and work on the island of Hven, either a place on the island or a person who spent time on the island. These pages are collected here.

The island of Hven is located in the Danish sound, between Denmark and Sweden. The island is currently part of Sweden, but in the 16th century it was controlled by the Danish crown. In 1575, the Danish king, Frederick II, gave Tycho Brahe the island of Hven to use for his scientific researches. There was, at the time, one village on the island: Tuna (the little collection of houses in the upper third of the map, labeled F). Villagers were obliged to provide their labor for free to Tycho, as lord of the island. Within a few years, Tycho built an estate that he called Uraniborg (in the center of the island, labeled A). The estate contained two observatories, one at the top of Uraniborg and one underground in a separate building, called Stjerneborg (just below Uraniborg on the map, labeled B); an extensive library of scientific works, a printing press, an alchemical laboratory, and a botanical garden. Tycho and his family lived in Uraniborg, and so did Tycho’s assistants, students and visiting colleagues. Uraniborg became a kind astronomical research center and scholars from all over Europe either visited or corresponded with Tycho. Tycho’s sister Sophie Brahe, an alchemist, astrologer and botanist in her own right, often visited the island and worked with her brother. Tycho’s bitter rivalry with Nicholas Ursus began on the island, when Tycho caught Ursus examining his manuscripts. The Danish Royal Physician Petrus Severinus shared Tycho’s interests in Paracelsian medicine. Severinus visited Hven, and the two men corresponded regularly.