Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bran Tub # 4: The Prosthetic Nose of Tycho Brahe …



Now how did I come to this … well none other than through that wonderful trilogy of books I’ve been mentioning by Patrick Leigh Fermor: that classic memoir of a journey across pre War Europe – which encompasses history intertwined with science and other disclipines.

Tycho Brahe with
his nose in situ



Who on earth was Tycho Brahe?  Fermor introduces him via discussions about Emperor Rudolf II, who had made Prague his capital and filled it with treasures.









The Tychonic Cosmological model
(can be found in Wiki) 


The Emperor deeply versed in astronomical studies had invited Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) to his Court … the great astronomer arrived noseless from a duel in Denmark; he then continued to  live in Prague until his death of the plague.






Just a bit of background:

Brahe and Kepler in Prague
Rudolf (1552 – 1612) was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria … he was a member of the House of Hapsburg.

After Brahe died, Kepler was summoned to continue Brahe’s work on the planets, remaining until the Emperor’s death in 1612.

Albrecht von Wallenstein became supreme commander of the armies of the Hapsburg Monarchy and thus very influential and powerful.  Wallenstein inherited Kepler from Rudolf


Further background:

Engraving of the Mural Quadrant from
Brahe's book: "Astronomiae
Instauratae Mechanica" (1598)
This was in Denmark at Uraniborg -
which Tycho Brahe left after an
argument with the Danish King 
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543): Renaissance mathematician and astronomer, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the centre of the universe.



Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601): astronomer, astrologer and alchemist – he was the last of the naked eye astronomers.  He admired Copernicus but was unable to reconcile Copernican theory with the basic laws of Aristotelian physics, that he considered foundational.



Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630): mathematician, astronomer and astrologer.  Later in his life he became an assistant to Tycho Brahe … additionally he did fundamental work in the field of optics.


A replica of "the nose"
Now I had really get back to Prosthetic Noses … Brahe’s real one was lost, when he was 20, in a duel with one of his cousins – they were later reconciled – but his cousin’s swipe in the dark took off the bridge of his nose.


Brahe was studying at the University of Rostock – his injuries were taken care of and was able to live with his ‘false’ nose.  It was said to be made of silver and gold, kept in place with paste (flour or starch) or glue.


Archduke Rudolf ... note the
Hapsburg chin
As you’d expect (us humans being quizzy people) his body has been exhumed twice, once in 1901 and again in 2010, to examine the circumstances of his death and to identify the material from which his nose was made.


The conclusion was that his death was most likely caused by a burst bladder – an infection from the plague.  While the artificial nose was more than likely to have been made of brass …



The first of Patrick Leigh Fermor's books
The nose is the principal element of our physiognomy … so its symbolic value as an expression of our character has demanded, from very ancient times, reconstructive surgery or application of prosthesis to be sought.


Tycho Brahe’s nose has led me to many places … something completely different today … but as you might expect – it led me to other interesting ideas!


Patrick Leigh Fermor’s books – this is the first of the trilogy … 


There’s some interesting information on ‘Amputation of the Nose throughout History’ in this Italian article… it is a fascinating read – and could well be inspirationally used in a few of your books.


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

53 comments:

A Heron's View said...

I am tempted Hilary to quote the joke about the dog with no nose not being able to smell - but I will refrain from doing so :-)
You do indeed choose on occasions some odd topics.

Anabel Marsh said...

Well, I had heard of Tycho Brahe but not about his nose! Interesting.

Theresa Milstein said...

I heard of Copernicus, but not the others.

Oh, that nose story--yikes!

DMS said...

I had no idea that anyone ever had a fake nose made of brass- or any other metal. It doesn't seem comfortable, but I guess it did the job. Interesting post, of course. :)
~Jess

jabblog said...

What a way to lose your nose! It must have been hard to live with such a prosthesis.

Betsy Brock said...

Well, isn't that interesting! Brass seems a big heavy for a fake nose...and a paste made of flour doesn't sound very sticky. haha. But back then, it was a genius thing, I am sure!

TexWisGirl said...

poor fellow.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mel - yes .. probably not a good one to put up here - so thank you for not posting it. I know - sorry I just enjoy being a little different - but this was really interesting to write up - and the Italian link is worth looking at ...

@ Anabel - the whole just interested me .. so I've taught myself something.

@ Theresa - interestingly it was Tycho Brahe I hadn't heard of - the others were fine. That slash must have been uncomfortable ...

@ Jess - the thought of making and fitting the nose does seem really strange and having to fit it every day ...

@ Janice - I think things in those days were just accepted one got on with things ... though uncomfortable to put it mildly ...

@ Betsy - it does seem to be too heavy a metal doesn't it ... the flour paste was probably replaced by horn or bone glue ... but if it lasted the day: flour paste would be the easiest ... if they knew about keeping things clean. He was buried with his nose - so I guess it was part and parcel of him ... and a very clever prosthesis. The Italian article is a fascinating read ...

@ Theresa - he did live for over 50 years - beaten by the dreaded plague ...

Cheers to you - Hilary

Out on the prairie said...

Not the part of my anatomy I would want to lose. I think trying to keep on the false one would be hard also.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have a friend who almost lost his nose in a freak accident and the the blood loss was frightening. Brahe is lucky he didn't bleed to death.

Elephant's Child said...

Prosthetics have been with us a long time haven't they? Longer than I realised. Particularly prosthetics for aesthetics.

Rhodesia said...

Amazing that they could actually make a prosthetic nose that long ago, I am impressed. A fascinating post that I knew nothing of before. Well done Hilary. Hope all is well, have a good week Diane

Denise Covey said...

The history of prosthetics could be a further study for you Hilary. I wonder how good a prosthetic nose was? But it certainly would help your appearance if you'd lost your own. So it's not just a modern phenomena.

Some of this post could be interesting for our WEP CONSTELLATIONS prompt this month. I'm always on the lookout and hope some really fascinating info is posted!

Denise :-)

Truedessa said...

That was interesting, I cannot imagine having a brass nose and I am really surprised they were able to construct one in those times. Always something new to learn here.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend Hilary!

Jo said...

I found this interesting too. I didn't think they could make a false nose out of brass in those days. I once met a person without a nose, not a pleasant sight so I am not surprised Tycho Brahe had one. I wonder if he still had a sense of smell?

Liz A. said...

Brahe was such an interesting character. It's those stories that led me (indirectly) to name my blog Laws of Gravity.

Mike Goad said...

I had actually heard of all those fellows..., but the story of the nose was a new one for me.

dolorah said...

Yep, its like the nose defines our face. Ugh, I'd hate to lose mine - but I would not mind not being able to "smell" everything all the time. Must be some canine in my DNA, lol.

Sridhar Chandrasekaran said...

You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing. I'm a life coach blogger. Reading blogs is my hobby and I randomly found your blog. I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging endeavors. Please keep in touch with me in Google+, +sridharchandrasekaran

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Steve – the logistics for poor old Brahe on his nose healing and then having the prosthetic one … must have been quite troubling – to put it mildly – so I agree with you.

@ Alex – I wondered about that too ... but as he was near the University – I guess they had some medical (herbalists) practitioners in toe to help staunch the flow … get it to heal, and work a way of making a new one.

@ EC – yes for well over 2,000 years – which, like you, was longer than I realised. The aesthetic element makes so much sense – but really hadn’t occurred to me.

@ Diane – the thing I found interesting was how long they’d been making prosthetic noses … logical I suppose … but still surprised me.

@ Denise – I think I’ve shot my bolt with prosthetic noses – and as I’m not medically inclined … I’ll leave it here with Tycho. I agree it’d be preferable to have something …

WEP Constellations … I’d been looking from a different angle … I think noses are now off my radar!

@ Truedessa – I can’t imagine being Tycho Brahe with his nose in any form … so I totally agree with you.

@ Jo – how daunting it must have been to meet someone without a nose … there must be some around, I guess. He probably could smell … as it was only the bridge of his nose that was cut off … but we’ll never know.

@ Liz – how interesting that that link of Tycho Brahe had an indirect link to the name of your blog Laws of Gravity. I shall remember that when I’m commenting in the future.

@ Mike – I didn’t know much about Rudolf, or as I said earlier I hadn’t heard of Tycho Brahe … but his nose, I thought, made a good post.

@ Donna – yes the nose does define the face, and sometimes the character. I have a reasonable sense of smell … so I’m glad I don’t suffer your apparent olfactory sense of heightened awareness …

@ Sridhar – thank you …

Thanks so much – I’m glad this interested you and you had some interesting thoughts about prosthetic noses … cheers Hilary

Susan Scott said...

Thanks Hilary, very interesting! I'll show my husband who is an ear nose & throat specialist. Somehow noses have always interested me. Such an organ of so much ... I'm trying to remember the author of that wonderful though terrifying book: Perfume:Patrick Suskind (see I remembered). I love how you made the tie in of that time - Hungarian/Bohemia,Croatia King, archduke and Holy Roman Emperor ie Rudolf, with Kepler & Copernicus.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Can you imagine having a brass nose? I'm sure it was difficult to keep it attached to his face.

Christine Rains said...

It's remarkable he lived through losing his nose! Thank you for sharing his story. Funny how I've heard of Kepler and Copernicus, but not Tycho.

beste barki said...

I had no idea. I find it all very interesting Hilary.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

What an interesting story about his nose. I know cutting off noses was used as a form of punishment in a few Native American societies. I guess today, modern medicine would be able to fix it.

Chrys Fey said...

Losing a nose from a duel. Ouch. At least there aren't prosthetic noses anymore. Now, surgeons can graft noses from bone cartilage and skin.

Annalisa Crawford said...

It's pretty impressive they were able to recreate a nose for him. It sounds like a very painful injury.

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Dueling is such an odd way to settle disputes! The nose incident would have hurt but the bladder bursting must have been excruciating. I hope he was "out of it" when that happened. I'm looking though the article you linked too--oh my goodness!

Mason Canyon said...

I didn't realize prosthetics went back that far. I can't image how he was able to keep the nose attached. It's interesting that his body has been exhumed twice to be studied. Hilary, I always learn much from you.

Karen Lange said...

Wow, I did not know this. Don't recall ever hearing about Tycho and his nose. I'm thinking had I heard of him, I'd remember those details. :) Appreciate you enlightening us, Hilary. Have a good week!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

He didn't live very long. 55 doesn't seem old to me. LOL. Any info on how he died? In a dual with his cousin? I've seen him in movies and always wondered why the flashy nose piece. Thanks, Hilary. This was interesting, as usual.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Interesting post. I;m kind of wishing I had made a sculpture of my body and face before I got quite this old....I'm thinking 29 would have been the perfect age. LOL

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan – how interesting about your husband – my father’s brother was an ear nose and throat surgeon. Noses seem to define us don’t they? I loved reading Perfume by Patrick Suskind – and have it here … the descriptions of Paris and France were very evocative: well done on remembering. I gather there’s a film .. but I’ve never seen it.

Sometimes we need to remember the period in which things happen – this post is my memory jogger! But I’m glad you enjoyed the linkages.

@ Diane – most definitely not … and mine would fall off all the time – they did have ones with ties attached round the head. However he used paste and glue – horn and bone glue are quite strong. But still makes you think …

@ Christine – yes he did live on. I’m like you I hadn’t heard of Tycho …

@ Beste – me neither … but tying the details in made it all the more interesting …

@ Susan – yes cutting off the nose or an ear were forms of punishment in Greek and Roman times … so your Native American societies did it too – mind you if they scalped people … I guess the nose isn’t so bad?!

@ Chrys – well it’s been ‘ouch’ as I’ve been writing and thinking about it. You’re right now-a-days medical techniques have improved enormously …

@ Annalisa – painful I’m sure it was … but the recreation was a bit of a shock … still it worked.

@ Holly – it was such a common way of settling a dispute – usually a personal slight. I agree the effects of the plague culminating with the burst bladder must have been terrible and I’m sure he was “out of it”. I’m glad you looked through the article …

@ Mason – I hadn’t realised about prosthetics and their development or use through the centuries – I thought it would interest some of you. Keeping his nose in situ must have been difficult. We humans are quizzy – and wanted to know … now it’s solved as far as we are able to.

@ Karen – I definitely hadn’t heard of him or about the loss of his nose and like you I’d have remembered those details.

@ Joylene – well he died of the plague … so that brings the timing of his death earlier than expected. And the burst bladder … no he didn’t have another duel. I haven’t seen his character or characterisation in movies … but then I don’t watch that many: I’d like to know which ones if you remember.

@ Sharon – oh gosh … a sculpture of my body at any age would be fairly frightening – I’d be in ghoulish realms!! Good for you – 29 sounds a good age.

Take care all of you and thanks for visiting and your comments – food for thought (perhaps!) … cheers Hilary

Jacqui Murray said...

I am constantly amazed how much we accomplished in the days when science was for the rich only--because they had the time and money to pursue it. Didn't know most of what you've written here. I love reading history, getting lost in other cultures, though I usually go back to Greece and Rome.

Deborah Weber said...

What a fabulous post Hilary - the combination of planetary prominence and proboscis prothesis delights me no end. I couldn't help but think of the movie Cat Ballous, and now I may have to watch it again for a peek at that tin nose.

bazza said...

Hello Hilary. I actually knew about this story but I didn't know about Brahe's moustache!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

cleemckenzie said...

Tucked somewhere in the recesses of this brain in turmoil, is the memory of this man and his nose. But finding a book that includes nose amputation history is one amazing find! I'm already wondering if I should include a character with an prosthetic nose. If there are dozens of books that suddenly turn up with such a character, we know who to blame. :-)

Robert Bennett said...

Very cool but a little disturbing that we've dug the poor man up twice.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jacqui - humans always seem to be searching don't they and as you say we accomplished much - yet there are a few who rose up through the ranks or even from underdog status. I'm just glad you enjoyed the very quick interlude into history ...

@ Deborah - love your alliterated summary! I'd forgotten about Cat Ballou - but note the chap (John Chambers) who was a Prosthetics expert in Hollywood. When the film appears again .. I will now make a point of watching ...

@ Bazza - I'd never heard the story - so am glad someone has. That moustache is magnificent isn't it!!

@ Lee - Leigh Fermor's book only mentions Tycho Brahe ... but I had to look him up - hence this post. I'd never heard of him ... his name interested me too ... then I found out about the amputation ... the book just gave me a thread to follow.

I thought the link was well worth a read ... it gives quite a lot of descriptive history of the whys and hows of nose amputation ... and yes I guess that thought occurred to me - I'll be here - to take the blame!!!

@ Robert - well we do that sort of thing don't we - dig people up to check.

Cheers everyone - or perhaps not a cheery topic - still a fun one ... the mention of Cat Ballou by Deborah might make us go off and find the film ... more light entertainment than this post! cheers Hilary

Lynda R Young said...

It's so tempting to go a nose pun but I will restrain myself... for once.

Crystal Collier said...

Can you imagine going through life without a real nose? He must have had a terrible time smelling things around that prosthetic.

Kathleen Valentine said...

He was noseless from a duel and died of the plague--hard to get more medieval than that!!!!

Nick Wilford said...

Astronomy and false noses - what a great mix! I hope the nose didn't fall off at inopportune times.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynda - thanks ... perhaps you should have done ... but then again ...

@ Crystal - no I can't imagine being without my nose. Smells in those days would be so different - most of them terrible ... but as you say through the prosthetic and the moustache!

@ Kathleen - that's a very good way of describing this episode ... I like that ...

@ Nick - quite honestly I'm sure the nose must have fallen off rather often - but we will never know I'm afraid. But the thought of horn glue or paste on part of my nose hurts to think about the consequences of taking the prosthetic off.

Cheers to you all - thanks for those extra snippets to the conversation .. Hilary

Mark Noce said...

Sooo cool! Amazing what people were able to figure out then with just math and observation:)

A Cuban In London said...

Ouch! Lost his nose in a duel. Believe it or not, I touched mine unconsciously. I realised only when I noticed that I was typing wit just the one hand! :-)

Fascinating post. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mark - they were great thinkers and 'engineers' .. as you say they did achieve so much ... using just their brains.

@ ACIL - I can believe that we are so aware of our own physiognomy ... but how funny - you actually realised it.

Thanks you two - so glad you enjoyed it ...cheers Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I sure do appreciate you, um... sticking your nose... into historical tidbits like this, and then sharing them with us. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan - it was one I couldn't resist ... but so interesting to find out about .. cheers Hilary

Jean Davis said...

I'd actually heard of him before, probably in an astronomy class at some point, but I don't recall the nose issue. My goodess, I can't image having to paste on a brass nose and go about my day. It would seem like that would be heavy and cold and quite distracting to look at.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jean - I'm glad you'd heard about him ... I needed to check him out - but the prosthetic nose interested me - as you rightly say ... it must have been really challenging wearing it - the coldness of it hadn't occurred to me ... but the post does throw up lots of thought processes ...

Cheers Hilary

Lynn said...

Interesting - my mind went to my brother-in-law's employee, who lost his nose from cancer surgery. He has a prosthetic nose (but not metal like that one) and won't wear it. It's difficult to look at him, with just holes in his face, but I'm used to it now.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lynn - well your comment is informative and interesting too ... poor chap - but I can see his 'objection' to putting on his nose ... but for the public it must be difficult for them to look at ... I can believe you'd get used to it.

Thanks for that extra add to the comments - cheers Hilary