|Birth Day:||July 13, 1527|
|Death Date:||Dec 1608 (aged 81)|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
Known best as a sixteenth-century Hermetic philosopher, he also studied alchemy, the occult, astronomy, and mathematics. In addition, he worked as a personal astrological consultant to Queen Elizabeth I of England.
As per our current Database, John Dee died on Dec 1608 (aged 81).
He studied at St. John's College, Cambridge and later joined a London trade association called the Worshipful Company of Mercers.
Dee attended Chelmsford Chantry School (now King Edward VI Grammar School) in 1535–1542. He entered St John's College, Cambridge in November 1542, aged 15, graduating BA in 1545 or early 1546. His abilities recognised, he became an original fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge on its foundation by Henry VIII in 1546. At Trinity, the clever stage effects he produced for a production of Aristophanes' Peace earned him lasting repute as a magician. In the late 1540s and early 1550s, he travelled in Europe, studying at Louvain (1548) and Brussels and lecturing in Paris on Euclid. He studied under Gemma Frisius and became friends with the cartographers Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius. Dee also met, worked and learnt from other continental mathematicians, such as Federico Commandino in Italy. He returned to England with a major collection of mathematical and astronomical instruments. In 1552, he met Gerolamo Cardano in London, with whom he investigated a purported perpetual motion machine and a gem supposed to have magical properties.
Rector at Upton-upon-Severn from 1553, Dee was offered a readership in mathematics at Oxford University in 1554, which he declined, citing as offensive English universities' emphasis on rhetoric and grammar (which, together with logic, formed the academic trivium) over philosophy and science (the more advanced quadrivium, composed of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy). He was busy with writing and perhaps hoped for a better position at court. In 1555, Dee joined the Worshipful Company of Mercers, as his father had, through its system of patrimony.
Dee presented Queen Mary in 1556 with a visionary plan for preserving old books, manuscripts and records and founding a national library, but it was not taken up. Instead, he expanded his personal library in Mortlake, acquiring books and manuscripts in England and on the Continent. Dee's library, a centre of learning outside the universities, became the greatest in England and attracted many scholars.
When Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1558, Dee became her astrological and scientific advisor, even choosing her coronation date. From the 1550s to the 1570s, he served as an advisor to England's voyages of discovery, providing technical aid in navigation and political support to create a "British Empire", a term he was the first to use. Dee wrote in October 1574 to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley seeking patronage. He claimed to have occult knowledge of treasure in the Welsh Marches and of valuable manuscripts kept at Wigmore Castle, knowing that the Lord Treasurer's ancestors came from the area.
In 1564, Dee wrote the Hermetic work Monas Hieroglyphica ("The Hieroglyphic Monad"), an exhaustive Cabalistic interpretation of a glyph of his own design, meant to express the mystical unity of all creation. Having dedicated it to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor in an effort to gain patronage, Dee attempted to present it to him at the time of his ascension to the throne of Hungary. The work was esteemed by many of Dee's contemporaries, but cannot be interpreted today in the absence of the secret oral tradition of that era.
Dee was married three times and had eight children. His first wife, Katherine Constable in 1565, died in 1574 without issue. His second marriage (also childless) to an unknown woman lasted only a year until her death in 1576. From 1577 to 1601, Dee kept a sporadic diary (also referred to as his almanac), from which most of what we know of his life in that time has been gleaned. In 1578, when he was 51, he married the 23-year-old Jane Fromond, who had her own connection with the Elizabethan court as a lady in waiting to Elizabeth FitzGerald, Countess of Lincoln until she married Dee. When, in 1587, Kelley informed Dee of the angel's wish that they share wives, Jane Dee (née Fromond) was his wife at the time. Their son Theodore, born nine months later, could have been Kelley's, not Dee's.
His 1570 "Mathematical Preface" to Henry Billingsley's English translation of Euclid's Elements argued for the importance of mathematics as an influence on the other arts and sciences. Intended for an audience outside the universities, it proved to be Dee's most widely influential and frequently reprinted work.
From 1570 Dee advocated a policy of political and economic strengthening of England and establishment of colonies in the New World. His manuscript Brytannicae reipublicae synopsis (1570) outlined the state of the Elizabethan Realm and was concerned with trade, ethics and national strength.
His 1576 General and Rare Memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation was the first volume in an unfinished series planned to advocate for the establishment of English colonies abroad. In a symbolic frontispiece, Dee included a figure of Britannia kneeling by the shore beseeching Elizabeth I to protect her nation by strengthening her navy. Dee used Geoffrey's inclusion of Ireland in King Arthur's conquests to argue that Arthur had established a "British empire" abroad. He argued that the establishment of new colonies would benefit England economically, with said colonies being protected by a strong navy. Dee has been credited with coining the term British Empire, but Humphrey Llwyd has also been credited with the first use in his Commentarioli Britannicae Descriptionis Fragmentum, published eight years earlier in 1568.
In 1577, Dee published General and Rare Memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation, a work setting out his vision of a maritime empire and asserting English territorial claims on the New World. Dee was acquainted with Humphrey Gilbert and close to Sir Philip Sidney and his circle.
This former College of Priests had been re-established as a Protestant institution by Royal Charter in 1578. However, he could not exert much control over its fellows, who despised or cheated him. Early in his tenure, he was consulted on the demonic possession of seven children, but took little interest in the case, although he allowed those involved to consult his still extensive library.
Dee's first attempts with several scryers were unsatisfactory, but in 1582 he met Edward Kelley (then calling himself Edward Talbot to disguise his conviction for "coining" or forgery), who impressed him greatly with his abilities. Dee took Kelley into his service and began to devote all his energies to his supernatural pursuits. These "spiritual conferences" or "actions" were conducted with intense Christian piety, always after periods of purification, prayer and fasting. Dee was convinced of the benefits they could bring to mankind. (The character of Kelley is harder to assess: some conclude that he acted with cynicism, but delusion or self-deception cannot be ruled out. Kelley's "output" is remarkable for its volume, intricacy and vividness. Dee claimed that angels laboriously dictated several books to him this way, through Kelley, some in a special angelic or Enochian language.
In 1583, Dee met the impoverished yet popular Polish nobleman Albert Łaski, who, after overstaying his welcome at court, invited Dee to accompany him back to Poland. With some prompting by the "angels" (again through Kelley) and by dint of his worsening status at court, Dee decided to do so. He, Kelley, and their families left in September 1583, but Łaski proved to be bankrupt and out of favour in his own country. Dee and Kelley began a nomadic life in Central Europe, meanwhile continuing their spiritual conferences, which Dee detailed in his diaries and almanacs. They had audiences with Emperor Rudolf II in Prague Castle and King Stephen Bathory of Poland, whom they attempted to convince of the importance of angelic communication. The Bathory meeting took place at the Niepołomice Castle (near Kraków, then capital of Poland) and was later analysed by Polish historians (Ryszard Zieliński, Roman Żelewski, Roman Bugaj) and writers (Waldemar Łysiak). While Dee was generally seen as a man of deep knowledge, he was mistrusted for his connection with the English monarch, Elizabeth I, for whom some thought (and still do) that Dee was a spy. The Polish king, a devout Catholic and cautious of supernatural media, began their meeting(s) by affirming that prophetic revelations must match the teachings of Christ, the mission of the Holy Catholic Church, and the approval of the Pope.
Dee was a friend of Tycho Brahe and familiar with the work (translated into English by his ward and assistant, Thomas Digges) of Nicolaus Copernicus. Many of his astronomical calculations were based on Copernican assumptions, although he never openly espoused the heliocentric theory. Dee applied Copernican theory to the problem of calendar reform. In 1583, he was asked to advise the Queen on the new Gregorian calendar promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII from October 1582. He advised that England accept it, albeit with seven specific amendments. The first was that the adjustment should not be the ten days that would restore the calendar to the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, but by eleven, which would restore it to the birth of Christ. Another proposal of Dee's was to align the civil and liturgical years and have them both start on 1 January. Perhaps predictably, England chose to spurn suggestions that had papist origins, despite any merit they may have had.
In 1587, at a spiritual conference in Bohemia, Kelley told Dee that the angel Uriel had ordered the men to share all their possessions, including their wives. By this time, Kelley had gained some renown as an alchemist and was more sought-after than Dee in this regard: it was a line of work that had prospects for serious and long-term financial gain, especially among the royal families of central Europe. Dee, however, was more interested in communicating with angels, whom he believed would help him solve the mysteries of the heavens through mathematics, optics, astrology, science and navigation. Perhaps Kelley in fact wished to end Dee's dependence on him as a diviner at their increasingly lengthy, frequent spiritual conferences. The order for wife-sharing caused Dee anguish, but he apparently did not doubt it was genuine and they apparently shared wives. However, Dee broke off the conferences immediately afterwards. He returned to England in 1589, while Kelley went on to be the alchemist to Emperor Rudolf II. Nine months later, on 28 February 1588, a son was born to Dee's wife, whom Dee baptised Theodorus Trebonianus Dee and raised as his own, though he may have been Kelley's, as Dee was 60 at the time and Kelley 32.
Dee returned to Mortlake after six years abroad to find his home vandalised, his library ruined and many of his prized books and instruments stolen. Furthermore, he found that increasing criticism of occult practices had made England still less hospitable to his magical practices and natural philosophy. He sought support from Elizabeth, who hoped he could persuade Kelley to return and ease England's economic burdens through alchemy. She finally appointed Dee Warden of Christ's College, Manchester, in 1595.
Jane died in Manchester of bubonic plague and was buried in the Manchester Cathedral burial grounds in March 1604. Michael, born in Prague, died on his father's birthday in 1594. Theodore, born in Třeboň, died in Manchester in 1601. His sons Arthur Dee and Rowland survived him, as did his daughter Katherine, "his companion to the end". No records exist for his youngest daughters Madinia (sometimes Madima), Frances and Margaret after 1604, so it is widely assumed they died in the epidemic that took their mother. (Dee had by this time ceased to keep a diary.)
Dee left Manchester in 1605 to return to London, but remained Warden until his death. By that time, Elizabeth was dead and James I gave him no support. Dee spent his final years in poverty at Mortlake, forced to sell off various possessions to support himself and his daughter, Katherine, who cared for him until his death in Mortlake late in 1608 or early in 1609 aged 81. (Both the parish registers and Dee's gravestone are missing.) In 2013 a memorial plaque to Dee was placed on the south wall of the present church.
Some ten years after Dee's death, the antiquarian Robert Cotton bought land round Dee's house and began digging for papers and artifacts. He found several manuscripts, mainly records of Dee's angelic communications. Cotton's son gave these to the scholar Méric Casaubon, who published them in 1659, with a long introduction critical of their author, as A True & Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and some spirits. As the first public revelation of Dee's spiritual conferences, the book was popular. Casaubon, who believed in the reality of spirits, argued in his introduction that Dee was acting as the unwitting tool of evil spirits when he believed he was communicating with angels. This book is mainly responsible for the image, prevalent for the next two-and-a-half centuries, of Dee as a dupe and deluded fanatic. About the time the True and Faithful Relation was published, members of the Rosicrucian movement claimed Dee as one of their number. There is doubt, however, that an organized Rosicrucian movement existed in Dee's lifetime, and no evidence he ever belonged to any secret fraternity. His reputation as a magician and the vivid story of his association with Edward Kelley have made him a seemingly irresistible figure to fabulists, writers of horror stories and latter-day magicians. The accretion of fanciful information about Dee often obscures the facts of his life, remarkable as they were. It also does nothing to promote his Christian leanings: Dee looked to the angels to tell him how he might heal the deep and serious rifts between the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Church of England and the Protestant movement in England. Queen Elizabeth I used him several times as her court astronomer, not solely because he practised Hermetic arts, but as a deeply religious and learned, trustworthy man.
Dee has often been associated with the Voynich manuscript. Wilfrid Michael Voynich, who bought the manuscript in 1912, suggested that Dee may have owned it and sold it to Rudolph II. Dee's contacts with Rudolph were less extensive than had been thought, however, and Dee's diaries show no evidence of a sale. However, he was known to have owned a copy of the Book of Soyga, another enciphered book.
In December 2004, both a shew stone (used for divining) formerly belonging to Dee and a mid-17th century explanation of its use written by Nicholas Culpeper were stolen from the Science Museum in London, but recovered shortly after.
John's second marriage, to the much-younger Jane Fromand, produced eight children. John was the only child of Jane Dee and Welsh merchant Rowland Dee.
Currently, John Dee is 495 years, 8 months and 19 days old. John Dee will celebrate 496th birthday on a Thursday 13th of July 2023. Below we countdown to John Dee upcoming birthday.