400 year-old murder mystery on brink of being solved

As far as murder mysteries go, the 400 year-old case of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is one of the most intriguing, and for a bunch of archaeologists in Prague, it is within touching distance of being solved.

The group of researchers are waiting for permission to open the tomb of the astrologer in Tyn Cathedral, one of the prime landmarks of the Old Town in Prague. While it was originally thought that Brahe died of a ‘twisted bladder’ after being too polite to leave the table during a banquet, new evidence suggests he was murdered by a contract killer.

The theory by Danish scholars claims that the astrologer was poisoned with mercury by order of Christian IV, King of Denmark. It is thought that the King discovered Brahe had been having an affair with his mother, so hired a contract killer to administer the poison.

Peter Andersen, a Danish scholar at the University of Strasbourg, believes that killer to be the astronomer’s cousin Count Eric Brahe. Anderson reached his conclusion after finding the Count’s diary, in which he records many meetings with Hans, the brother of Christian IV, on whose orders he is believed to have gone to Prague to murder his cousin.

Anderson suggests that Eric Brahe slipped mercury into his cousin’s drink. Tests on his hair showed mercury levels one hundred times above normal as a result of ingesting a large quantity of the liquid metal about 13 hours before his death, coinciding with the visit from his cousin.

If the archaeologists gain access to Brahe’s tomb they may be able to prove the theory, which they also claim could have been inspiration for Shakespeare when writing his play, Hamlet.

In 1572 Tycho Brahe became the first astronomer to describe a supernova and is famous for his accurate measurements of celestial movements in the pre-telescope era. He is known to have catalogued more than 1000 new stars in his lifetime.

For more information on Tycho Brahe visit www.tychobrahe.com

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