Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/John Dee

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DEE, JOHN (1527-1608), a mathematician and astrolo ger, waa born in July 1527, in London, where his father was a wealthy vintner. In 1542 he was sent to St John s College, Cambridge. After five years close application to mathematical studies, particularly astronomy, he went to Holland, in order to visit several eminent Continental mathematicians. Having remained abroad nearly a year, he returned to Cambridge, and was elected a fellow of Trinity College, then first erected by King Henry VIII. In 1548 he took the degree of master of arts ; but in the same year he found it necessary to leave England on account of the suspicions entertained of his being a conjuror, which were first excited by a piece of machinery, in the Irene of Aristophanes, he exhibited to the university, re presenting the scarabseus flying up to Jupiter, with a man and a basket of victuals on its back. On leaving England he went first to the university of Louvain, where he resided about two years, and then to the college of Rheims, where he read lectures on Euclid s Elements with great applause. On his return to England in 1551 King Edward assigned him a pension of 100 crowns, which he afterwards exchanged for the rectory of Upton-upon-Severn. Soon after the accession of Mary, he was accused of using en chantments against the queen s life ; but after a tedious confinement, he obtained his liberty in 1555, by an order of council. When Elizabeth ascended the throne, Dee was asked by Lord Dudley to name a propitious day for the coronation. On this occasion he was introduced to the queen, who took lessons in the mystical interpretation of his writings, and made him great promises, which, however, were never ful filled. In 1564 he again visited the Continent, in order to present a book which he had dedicated to the Emperor Maximilian. He returned to England in the same year ; but in 1571 we find him in Lorraine, whither two physicians were sent by the queen to his relief in a dangerous illness. Having once more returned to his native country, he settled at Mortlake, in Surrey, where he continued his studies with unremitting ardour, and made a collection of curious books and manuscripts, and a variety of instruments, most of which were destroyed by the mob during his absence, on account of his supposed familiarity with the devil. In 1578 Dee was sent abroad to consult with German physicians and astrologers in regard to the illness of the queen. On his return to England, he was employed in investigating the title of the Crown to the countries recently discovered by British subjects, and in furnishing geographical descriptions. Two large rolls containing the desired information, which he presented to the queen, are still preserved in the Cottonian Library. A learned treatise on the reformation of the calendar, written by him about the same time, is still preserved in the Ashmolean Library at Oxford. From this period the philosophical researches of Dee were concerned entirely with the pseudo-science of necromancy. In 1581 he became acquainted with Edward Kelly, an apothecary who professed to have discovered the philosopher s stone, and by whose assistance he performed various incantations, and maintained a frequent imaginary intercourse with spirits. Shortly after, Kelly and Dee were introduced to a Polish nobleman, Albert Lasld, palatine of Siradia (Sieradz), devoted to the same pursuits, who persuaded the two friends to accompany him to his native country. They embarked for Holland in September 1583, and arrived at Laski s place of residence in February following. They lived for some years in Poland and Bohemia in alternate wealth and poverty, according to the credulity or scepticism of those before whom they exhibited. They professed to raise spirits by incantation. Kelly dictated their utterances to Dee, who wrote them down and interpreted them. Dee, having at length quarrelled with his companion, quitted Bohemia and returned to England, where he was made chancellor of St Paul s Cathedral in 1594, and warden of Manchester College in 1595. He afterwards returned to his house at Mortlake, where he died in 1608, at the age of eighty-one. His principal works are Propcedeumata Aphoristica, Lond. 1558; Monas Hicroglyphica, Antwerp, 1564 ; Epistola ad Fredericnrn Commandinum, Fesaro, 1570 ; Preface Afathcmatical to the English Euclid, 1570 ; Divers Annotations and Inventions added after the tenth look of English Euclid, 1570 ; Epistola praflxa Ephemc.- ridibus Joannis Feldi, a 1557; Parallaticcc Coirunentationis Praxcos-

que Nucleus quidam, London, 1573. The catalogue of his printed and published works is to be found in his Compendious Rehearsal, &3 well as in his letter to Archbishop "VVhitgift, to which tho reader is referred. A manuscript of Dee s, relating what passed for many years between him and some spirits, was edited by Meric Cas- aubon and published in 1659. The Private Diary of Dr John Dee, and the Catalogue of his Library of Manuscripts, edited by J. 0. Halliwell, was published by the Camden Society in 1842.