'The Noble Dane' was one of several epithets applied to the sixteenth-century astronomer Tycho Brahe by the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed. Pierre Gassendi, in the first biography of Tycho published in 1654, had already referred to him as 'nobilis Danus'. Nobility was the quality most commonly attributed to Tycho. He was indeed a member of a Danish noble family, but it was not mere lineage that gave Tycho his lasting image. He practised astronomy in a princely manner and on a grand scale.

Although Tycho benefited from the generous patronage of Frederick II, notably through the use and revenues of the island of Hven, he did not serve the King in the traditional manner of the court astronomer. Rather Tycho ruled his island as a fiefdom and the apt title of a recent biography is The Lord of Uraniborg - the name he gave to the 'Heavenly Castle' he built on Hven.

Here and in a second observatory building, Stjerneborg or 'Starry Castle', Tycho erected a remarkable range of instruments for astronomical measurement, from armillary spheres after the manner of Ptolemy to large quadrants of bold and original design. His instruments were built in his own workshops and his books printed on his own presses. With the help of an extensive staff of assistants he carried out an ambitious programme of work, effectively re-establishing the observational basis of astronomy.
Small wonder that Tycho was an object of admiration and emulation. He was held in enormous respect by generations of astronomers. While there is no doubt that his achievements gave him a special place in the history of astronomy, he fashioned his own image in a striking and individual manner. Tycho did more to construct an image of himself in the view of others that any other astronomer of his time, perhaps of any time. His whole programme was so comprehensive, audacious and individual that it seems inseparable from its author. He published a detailed account of his observatory and instruments in a book, Astronomiae instauratae mechanica, that became a model for others and that abounds with personal references and assertions. The most abiding image of Tycho and one of the most famous images in the history of astronomy comes from the fresco he had painted on the wall that carried the instrument he named after himself, the Tyconian Quadrant.
Tycho's grand and emphatic self-presentation may sit uneasily with the image of him offered in the picture by Ender, where he performs a more traditional courtly service before a patron whose attention is less than complete. By the time of this scene, Tycho had lost favour in Denmark and had been obliged to seek patronage elsewhere. Although Rudolph was keen to accommodate this prominent addition to his entourage, Tycho's situation was much more constrained than it had been on Hven.

Tycho, however, was careful to raise his work above such wordly concerns. Linking nobility with astronomy itself, he wrote in the Mechanica that: 'the person who cultivates divine Astronomy ought not to be influenced by ignorant judgements, but rather look upon them from his elevated position, considering the cultivation of his studies the most precious of all things, and remaining indifferent to the coarseness of others. And when statesmen or others bother him too much, then he should leave with his possessions.'