Brahe's observatory at Stjerneborg, Denmark, 1584.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Colour print with gilded details, made in 1634 by Joan Blaeu. Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) is widely held to be the greatest pre-telescope observer. Born into a noble family, at 14 he saw the partial solar eclipse of 1560, and from then on was obsesed by astronomy. In 1576, with royal aid, he established his Uraniborg ('Castle of the Heavens') Observatory on the island of Hven, or Ven, now in Sweden. There, he succesfully carried out his observations, measuring the positions of 777 stars and creating a catalogue of them with such accuracy that it provided a vital source of information for later astronomers. Brahe's second observatory, Stjerneborg, was built partially underground in 1581-1584.