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Sophia Brahe (1556 - 1643)


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Sophia Brahe assisted her older brother, Tycho Brahe, in making astronomical measurements that became the basis for modern planetary orbit predictions. She was the youngest of ten children and began assisting Tycho with his astronomical observations when she was barely a teenager. Tycho and Sophia were condemned by their family for studying science, who thought it an inappropriate past time for noble people, but Tycho was very supportive of his younger sister, and although he had trained her in horticuluture and chemistry, he was very proud that Sophia had learnt astronomy on her own. She primarily studied in German but also had Latin books translated with her own money to further her studies.

Sophia married in 1576 and bore one son. Upon her husband’s death she managed his property and kept it profitable until her son was old enough to take over. Alongside her parenting she became a horticulturalist, and continued to study chemistry and medicine. She also continued to assist her brother, helping him to record the positions of the planets and to produce horoscopes. They compiled data over several decades, producing the most accurate set of data of planetary positions relative to background stars at that time.

 

 

 

She married again in 1602, having become engaged to Erik Lange in 1590. Their long engagement was as a result of living in extreme poverty, and in a letter to her sister Margrethe, Sophia describes having to wear stockings with holes in them for her wedding, and returning her husband’s wedding clothes to a pawn shop after the wedding because they could not afford to keep them. The letter is also said to express anger with her family for not accepting her science studies, and for depriving her of money owed to her.

Her second husband died in 1613 and by 1616 she had moved back permanently to Denmark where she spent her last years writing up the genealogy of Danish noble families. Her first major works, 900 pages long, was published in 1626 and is still considered a significant source of information on the early history of Danish nobility.

 
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