The Carouser and the Great Astronomer

The two men in the coach were both 28 years old, born within a few months of each other in 1571. Frederik was Danish and Johannes was German, and for different reasons they now found themselves jostled together, in early June of 1600, traveling from Prague to Vienna.

Frederik had been deeply shaken by recent events that had sentenced him to exile and the mother of his child to be walled up for life in her father’s moated castle. Whirling through Johannes’s head were mathematical formulas he was convinced would prove God’s ultimate intention for a six-planet universe. Unknown to either of the travelers, a man in London was working on a text that would make one of them famous. The other’s hopes would be dashed, though he would also become famous—more so, indeed, than his traveling companion—but for reasons that would surprise him.

Johannes had been teaching at a seminary when he was struck by what seemed to him a divine revelation about the structure of the universe.

What had brought Frederik and Johannes to Prague was the arrival there the year previously of Frederik’s third cousin Tycho, a 54-year-old bear of a man with an artificial nose made of gold and silver—his fleshly one had been sliced off in a duel. At

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