Sophia Brahe

Sophia Brahe

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Sophie Brahe, or Sophia, (24 August 1556 – 1643) was a Danish
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 horticulturalist and student of astronomy, chemistry, and medicine, best known for assisting her brother Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe , born Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was a Danish nobleman known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations...

 with his astronomical observations.

Life


She was born in Knudsturp to Otte Brahe
Otte Brahe
Otte Brahe was a Danish nobleman who is best known for his son, Tycho Brahe.- Family life :Brahe was born in Tosterup to Tyge Brahe and Sophie Rud....

 rigsråd, or advisor to the King of Denmark; and to Beate Bille Brahe, leader to the household for Queen Sophie. Famous astronomer Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe , born Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was a Danish nobleman known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations...

 was her oldest brother. She was the youngest of ten children. She started assisting her brother with his astronomical observations in 1573, and helped him with the work that became the basis for modern planetary orbit predictions, frequently visiting his observatory Uranienborg
Uraniborg
Uranienborg was a Danish astronomical observatory operated by Tycho Brahe; built circa 1576-1580 on Hven, an island in the Øresund between Zealand and Scania, which at that time was part of Denmark. The observatory was shortly after its construction expanded with an underground facility,...

, on the then Danish island of Hveen. Tycho wrote that he had trained her in horticulture and chemistry, but he told her not to study astronomy. He expressed with pride that she learned astronomy on her own, studying books in German, and having Latin books translated with her own money so that she could also study them (Tjørnum). Brother and sister were united not only by science, but by the fact that their family did not approve of science as being an appropriate activity for noble people. Tycho referred with admiration to her 'animus invictus', her determined mind (Det Kongelige Bibliotek).

She married Otto Thott in 1576, when she was 19 or 20 and he was 33, and had one child with him before he died on 23 March 1588. Her son was Tage Thott, born in 1580. Upon her husband's death she managed his property in Ericksholm, running the estate to keep it profitable until her son came of age. During this time, she also became a horticulturalist, in addition to her studies in chemistry and medicine. The gardens she created in Ericksholm were supposed to be exceptional. Sophie was particularly interested in studying chemistry and medicine according to Paracelsus
Paracelsus
Paracelsus was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist....

, where small doses of poison might serve as strong medicines. She also helped her brother with producing horoscopes, continuing with that until 1597 (Det Kongelige Biblioteck).

On 21 July 1587, King Frederick II of Denmark signed a document transferring to Sophia Brahe title of Årup
Arup
Arup is a global professional services firm headquartered in London, United Kingdom which provides engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services for all aspects of the built environment. The firm is present in Africa, the Americas, Australasia, East Asia, Europe and the...

 farm in what is now Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 (Svensson, et al.).

During the times she visited at Uranienborg, she met Erik Lange, a nobleman who studied alchemy. In 1590, there are records that Sophie took 13 visits to Uranienborg, and they became engaged in that year. Unfortunately, Lange used up most of his fortune with alchemy experiments, so their marriage was delayed some years, while he avoided his debtors and traveled to Germany to try and find patrons for his work. Tycho Brahe wrote the poem Urania Titani during their separation, as a letter from his sister Sophia to her fiance in 1594. In 1599, she visited Lange in Hamburg, but they did not marry until 1602, in Eckenförde. They lived in this town for a while in extreme poverty. There is a long letter to Sophie's sister Margrethe Brahe, in which Sophie describes having to wear stockings with holes in them for her wedding. Lange's wedding clothes had to be returned to the pawn shop after the wedding, because the couple could not afford to keep them. This letter is said to express anger with her family for not accepting her science studies, and for depriving her of money owed to her. The letter is described as personal, emotional, and also showing humor. By 1608, Erik Lange was living in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, and he died there in 1613 (Det Kongelige Bibliotek).

Sophie Brahe personally financed the restoration of the local church, Ivetofta kyrka. She planned to be buried there, and the lid for her unused sarcophagus remains in the church's armory (Svensson, et al.). However, by 1616 she had moved back permanently to Denmark and settled in Helsingør. She spent her last years writing up the genealogy of Danish noble families, publishing the first major version in 1626 (there were later additions). Her work is still considered a major source for early history of Danish nobility(Det Kongelige Bibliotek). She died in Helsingør in the year 1643, and was buried in Kristianstad
Kristianstad
Kristianstad is a city and the seat of Kristianstad Municipality, Skåne County, Sweden with 35,711 inhabitants in 2010.-History:The city was founded in 1614 by King Christian IV of Denmark, the city's name literally means 'Town of Christian', as a planned city after the burning of the town of Vä...

, in Trefaldighets kyrka, with the Thott family (Tjørnum).

Legacy



In 1626 Sophie had completed a 900 page manuscript on the genealogies of 60 Danish nobilities, and this is now at Lund University
Lund University
Lund University , located in the city of Lund in the province of Scania, Sweden, is one of northern Europe's most prestigious universities and one of Scandinavia's largest institutions for education and research, frequently ranked among the world's top 100 universities...

. In 1691 Pieter van der Hulst
Pieter van der Hulst
Pieter van der Hulst , was a Dutch Golden Age painter.-Biography:According to Houbraken he travelled to Rome in 1674 where he received the nickname "Zonnebloem" for his preference for a "wilder sort of flower" than Jan Davidsz de Heem or Daniel Seghers...

painted a portrait of an old woman named Live Larsdatter with a note claiming she was born in 1575, and therefore then 116 years old. Sparse sources claimed that Live first worked for Tycho in Denmark, and later for Sophie, who taught her medicine. Live was variously said to have lived to 123 or 124 years and to have become known for her "miracle plaster".

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