Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Until Dusk

Since childhood I have "known" two things about the astronomer Tycho Brahe: that he had a golden nose and that he died from holding in his pee at a royal banquet instead of excusing himself to go to the bathroom. Like, he just popped or something. Like, his bladder exploded from politeness. These "facts" came out of my mouth at yesterday's ADVENTURE TIME meeting and I had to check them for accuracy, if you consider looking at wikipedia "checking for accuracy." I guess they dug him up twice to check out what his nose was made of, and finally decided it was brass, maybe? And there is something to the "holding his pee" story after all. He didn't pop, of course. He died some days later, though. Which prompted Adam Muto to ask, "Why didn't he just pee on himself?" I was offended! But Adam explained that at Versailles, for example, the nobility would just sit around peeing on themselves. I could hardly believe it! So I lazily checked around today and found a "blog" about Versailles which indeed includes a "post" entitled "The Lack of Toilets." Here is a brief passage: "The ruthlessly honest Duc de Saint-Simon once said of the Princesse d'Harcourt that she would often urinate while walking, making her hated by the many servants who had to clean up after her. It was even said that Louis XIV himself would go to the toilet while driving a carriage! When at Fontainebleau the courtiers would normally hold their water until dusk at which time they would rush to the lawns and simply do their business then and there." Adam asked me what happened to Tycho Brahe's nose and I rashly attributed his condition to syphilis. I'm sorry, Tycho Brahe! Further research indicated that he lost it in a sword fight with his cousin. They were arguing over a mathematical formula! I was going to illustrate this with a photo from the Versailles "blog" captioned "The Queen's Toilet," but I will instead include this photo from wikipedia because I like the caption: "An artificial nose of the kind Tycho wore. This particular specimen did not belong to Tycho."