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John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an English mathematician,
astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, planets, natural satellite, moons, comets and galaxy, g ...

astronomer
,
astrologer Astrology is a pseudoscience Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidenc ...
,
teacher A teacher, also called a schoolteacher or formally an educator, is a person who helps student A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and le ...

teacher
,
occult The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abiliti ...
ist, and
alchemist Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscience, protoscientific tradition practiced throughout Europe, Africa, China and throughout Asia, ob ...
. He was the court astronomer for, and advisor to,
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
, and spent much of his time on
alchemy Alchemy (from Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countri ...
,
divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occult The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural ...

divination
and
Hermetic philosophy Hermeticism, or Hermetism, is a label used to designate a philosophical system that is primarily based on the purported teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (a legendary Hellenistic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth). Thes ...
. As an antiquarian, he had one of the largest libraries in England at the time. As a political advisor, he advocated for the founding of English colonies in the
New World The "New World" is a term for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas."America." ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'' (). McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 33: " 6c:_from__...
_to_form_a_"British_Empire",_a_term_he_is_credited_with_coining. Dee_eventually_left_Elizabeth's_service_and_went_on_a_quest_for_additional_knowledge_in_the_deeper_realms_of_the_occult_and_supernatural._He_aligned_himself_with_several_individuals_who_may_have_been_charlatans,_travelled_through_Europe_and_was_accused_of_ 6c:_from__...
_to_form_a_"British_Empire",_a_term_he_is_credited_with_coining. Dee_eventually_left_Elizabeth's_service_and_went_on_a_quest_for_additional_knowledge_in_the_deeper_realms_of_the_occult_and_supernatural._He_aligned_himself_with_several_individuals_who_may_have_been_charlatans,_travelled_through_Europe_and_was_accused_of_Espionage">spying_ Espionage_or_spying_is_the_act_of_obtaining_secret_ Secrecy_is_the_practice_of_hiding_information_from_certain_individuals_or_groups_who_do_not_have_the_"need_to_know",_perhaps_while_sharing_it_with_other_individuals._That_which_is_kept__...
_for_
6c:_from__...
_to_form_a_"British_Empire",_a_term_he_is_credited_with_coining. Dee_eventually_left_Elizabeth's_service_and_went_on_a_quest_for_additional_knowledge_in_the_deeper_realms_of_the_occult_and_supernatural._He_aligned_himself_with_several_individuals_who_may_have_been_charlatans,_travelled_through_Europe_and_was_accused_of_Espionage">spying_ Espionage_or_spying_is_the_act_of_obtaining_secret_ Secrecy_is_the_practice_of_hiding_information_from_certain_individuals_or_groups_who_do_not_have_the_"need_to_know",_perhaps_while_sharing_it_with_other_individuals._That_which_is_kept__...
_for_The_Crown">the_English_crown._Upon_his_return_to_England,_he_found_his_home_and_library_vandalised._He_eventually_returned_to_the_Queen's_service,_but_was_turned_away_when_she_was_succeeded_by_ 6c:_from__...
_to_form_a_"British_Empire
",_a_term_he_is_credited_with_coining. Dee_eventually_left_Elizabeth's_service_and_went_on_a_quest_for_additional_knowledge_in_the_deeper_realms_of_the_occult_and_supernatural._He_aligned_himself_with_several_individuals_who_may_have_been_charlatans,_travelled_through_Europe_and_was_accused_of_Espionage">spying_ Espionage_or_spying_is_the_act_of_obtaining_secret_ Secrecy_is_the_practice_of_hiding_information_from_certain_individuals_or_groups_who_do_not_have_the_"need_to_know",_perhaps_while_sharing_it_with_other_individuals._That_which_is_kept__...
_for_The_Crown">the_English_crown._Upon_his_return_to_England,_he_found_his_home_and_library_vandalised._He_eventually_returned_to_the_Queen's_service,_but_was_turned_away_when_she_was_succeeded_by_James_VI_and_I">James_I_ James_VI_and_I_(James_Charles_Stuart;_19_June_1566 –_27_March_1625)_was_King_of_Scotland_as_James_VI_from_24_July_1567_and_King_of_England_and_King_of_Ireland,_Ireland_as_James_I_from_the_Union_of_the_Crowns,_union_of_the_Scottish_and_En_...
._He_died_in_poverty_in_London_and_his_gravesite_is_unknown.


_Biography


_Early_life

Dee_was_born_in__to_form_a_"British_Empire",_a_term_he_is_credited_with_coining. Dee_eventually_left_Elizabeth's_service_and_went_on_a_quest_for_additional_knowledge_in_the_deeper_realms_of_the_occult_and_supernatural._He_aligned_himself_with_several_individuals_who_may_have_been_charlatans,_travelled_through_Europe_and_was_accused_of_Espionage">spying_ Espionage_or_spying_is_the_act_of_obtaining_secret_ Secrecy_is_the_practice_of_hiding_information_from_certain_individuals_or_groups_who_do_not_have_the_"need_to_know",_perhaps_while_sharing_it_with_other_individuals._That_which_is_kept__...
_for_The_Crown">the_English_crown._Upon_his_return_to_England,_he_found_his_home_and_library_vandalised._He_eventually_returned_to_the_Queen's_service,_but_was_turned_away_when_she_was_succeeded_by_James_VI_and_I">James_I_ James_VI_and_I_(James_Charles_Stuart;_19_June_1566 –_27_March_1625)_was_King_of_Scotland_as_James_VI_from_24_July_1567_and_King_of_England_and_King_of_Ireland,_Ireland_as_James_I_from_the_Union_of_the_Crowns,_union_of_the_Scottish_and_En_...
._He_died_in_poverty_in_London_and_his_gravesite_is_unknown.


_Biography


_Early_life

Dee_was_born_in_Tower_(ward)">Tower_Ward,_London,_to_Rowland_Dee,_of_Welsh_descent,_and_Johanna,_daughter_of_William_Wild._His_surname_"Dee"_reflects_the_Welsh_language.html" "title="Tower_(ward).html" ;"title="James_VI_and_I.html" "title="The_Crown.html" ;"title="Espionage.html" "title="British_Empire.html" ;"title="6c: from ...
to form a "British Empire">6c: from ...
to form a "British Empire", a term he is credited with coining. Dee eventually left Elizabeth's service and went on a quest for additional knowledge in the deeper realms of the occult and supernatural. He aligned himself with several individuals who may have been charlatans, travelled through Europe and was accused of Espionage">spying Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups who do not have the "need to know", perhaps while sharing it with other individuals. That which is kept ...
for The Crown">the English crown. Upon his return to England, he found his home and library vandalised. He eventually returned to the Queen's service, but was turned away when she was succeeded by James VI and I">James I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and King of Ireland, Ireland as James I from the Union of the Crowns, union of the Scottish and En ...
. He died in poverty in London and his gravesite is unknown.


Biography


Early life

Dee was born in Tower (ward)">Tower Ward, London, to Rowland Dee, of Welsh descent, and Johanna, daughter of William Wild. His surname "Dee" reflects the Welsh language">Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
''du'' (). His grandfather was Bedo Ddu of Nant-y-groes, Pilleth, Radnorshire; John retained his connection with the locality. His father Roland was a Mercery, mercer and gentleman courtier to Henry VIII. John Dee claimed descent from Rhodri the Great, King of Wales, and constructed a pedigree accordingly. His family had arrived in London with Henry Tudor's coronation as Henry VII. Dee attended
Chelmsford Chelmsford () is a City status in the United Kingdom, City, and the county town of Essex, in the East of England. It is located in the London commuter belt, approximately northeast of London and from Colchester. The population is approximate ...

Chelmsford
Chantry School (now King Edward VI Grammar School) from 1535 to 1542. He entered
St John's College, Cambridge St John's College is a constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) educatio ...

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 Trinity College is a constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education ...
on its foundation by Henry VIII in 1546. At Trinity, the clever stage effects he produced for a production of
Aristophanes Aristophanes (; grc, Ἀριστοφάνης, ; c. 446 – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme 250px, Pinakia, identification tablets (name, father's name, deme) used for tasks like jury selection, Museum at the Ancient Agora of Athe ...

Aristophanes
' ''Peace'' earned him lasting repute as a magician. In the late 1540s and early 1550s, he travelled in Europe, studying at
Louvain Leuven (, ) or Louvain (, also , ; german: link=no, Löwen ) is the capital and largest city of the province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provin ...
(1548) and
Brussels Brussels (french: Bruxelles or ; nl, Brussel ), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (All text and all but one graphic show the English name as Brussels-Capital Region.) (french: link=no, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale; nl, link=no, Brusse ...

Brussels
and lecturing in Paris on
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Εὐκλείδης Euclid (; grc, Εὐκλείδης – ''Eukleídēs'', ; fl. 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematician, often referre ...

Euclid
. He studied under
Gemma Frisius Gemma Frisius (; born Jemme Reinerszoon; December 9, 1508 – May 25, 1555) was a Dutch physician, mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) inclu ...

Gemma Frisius
and became friends with the
cartographers Cartography (; from Greek language, Greek χάρτης ''chartēs'', "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and γράφειν ''graphein'', "write") is the study and practice of making and using maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, ca ...
Gerardus Mercator Gerardus Mercator (; 5 March 1512 – 2 December 1594) was a 16th-century geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', lite ...

Gerardus Mercator
and
Abraham Ortelius Abraham Ortelius (; also Ortels, Orthellius, Wortels; 14 April 152728 June 1598) was a Duchy of Brabant, Brabantian cartographer, geographer, and cosmographer, conventionally recognized as the creator of the list of atlases, first modern atlas, th ...

Abraham Ortelius
. Dee also met, worked and learnt from other continental mathematicians, such as
Federico CommandinoFederico Commandino (1509 – 5 September 1575) was an Italian humanist and mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics ...

Federico Commandino
in
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...

Italy
. He returned to England with a major collection of mathematical and astronomical instruments. In 1552, he met
Gerolamo Cardano Gerolamo Cardano (; also Girolamo or Geronimo; french: link=no, Jérôme Cardan; la, Hieronymus Cardanus; 24 September 1501– 21 September 1576 (O. S.)) was an Italian polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; ...

Gerolamo Cardano
in London, with whom he investigated a purported
perpetual motion machine 's 1618 "water screw" perpetual motion machine from a 1660 wood engraving. It is widely credited as the first attempt to describe such a device in order to produce useful work, that of driving millstones. Perpetual motion is the motion of bodies ...
and a
gem A gem, or gemstone, is a cut rock or mineral. Gem or GEM may also refer to: Arts, entertainment and media Fictional characters * Gem Reeves, in ''Neighbours'' * Gem, in ''Star Trek''s "The Empath" * Gem, in ''Tron: Legacy'' * Gem, in Power Ran ...

gem
supposed to have magical properties. Rector at
Upton-upon-Severn Upton-upon-Severn (or Upton on Severn, etc. and locally simply Upton) is a small town and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government. It is a territorial designation which is the lo ...
from 1553, Dee was offered a readership in mathematics at
Oxford University Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2017, its population was estimated at 152,450. It is northwest of London, southeast of Birmingham, and northeast of Bristol. The city is home to the Unive ...

Oxford University
in 1554, which he declined, citing as offensive English universities' emphasis on
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus Capella), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or sp ...
and
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...
(which, together with
logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning. Informal logic seeks to characterize Validity (logic), valid arguments informally, for instance by listing varieties of fallacies. Formal logic represents statements and ar ...

logic
, formed the
academic An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the ...

academic
''
trivium The trivium is the lower division of the seven liberal arts Liberal arts education (from Latin "free" and "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. ''Liberal arts'' takes the term ''Art ( ...

trivium
'') over philosophy and science (the more advanced ''
quadrivium In liberal arts education, the ''quadrivium'' (plural: quadrivia) consists of the four subjects or arts (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) taught after the trivium (education), ''trivium''. The word is Latin, meaning 'four ways', and its ...
'', 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 The Worshipful Company of Mercers is the premier Livery Company of the City of London and ranks first in the order of precedence of the Companies. It is the first of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. Although of even older origin, the com ...
, as his father had, through its system of
patrimony Patrimony may refer to: Law * Patrimony, or property, the total of all personal and real entitlements, including movable and immovable property, belonging to a real person or a juristic person * Patrimony, or inheritance, a right or estate inheri ...
. In that same year Dee was arrested and charged with the crime of "calculating", because he had cast
horoscope A horoscope (or other commonly used names for the horoscope in English include natal chart, astrological chart, astro-chart, celestial map, sky-map, star-chart, cosmogram, vitasphere, radical chart, radix, chart wheel or simply chart) is an ast ...
s of and . The charges were raised to
treason Treason is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Cr ...
against Mary. Dee appeared in the
Star Chamber The Star Chamber (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in r ...
and exonerated himself, but was turned over to the Catholic
Bishop Bonner Edmund Bonner (also Boner; c. 15005 September 1569) was Bishop of London from 1539–49 and again from 1553-59. Initially an instrumental figure in the schism (religion), schism of Henry VIII of England, Henry VIII from Holy See, Rome, he was an ...
for religious examination. His strong, lifelong penchant for secrecy may have worsened matters. The episode was the most dramatic in a series of attacks and slanders that dogged Dee throughout his life. Clearing his name yet again, he soon became a close associate of Bonner. 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 Mortlake is a suburban district of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames on the south bank of the River Thames between Kew and Barnes, London, Barnes. Historically it was part of Surrey and until 1965 was in the Municipal Borough of Barnes ...
, 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 The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
", a term he was the first to use. Dee wrote in October 1574 to
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (13 September 15204 August 1598) was an English statesman, the chief adviser of Queen Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga ...
seeking patronage. He claimed to have occult knowledge of treasure in the
Welsh Marches The Welsh Marches ( cy, Y Mers) is an imprecisely defined area along the Wales-England border, border between England and Wales in the United Kingdom. The precise meaning of the term has varied at different periods. The English term Welsh Mar ...
and of valuable manuscripts kept at
Wigmore Castle Wigmore Castle is a ruined castle in East Sussex East Sussex is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers ...
, knowing that the
Lord Treasurer The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer was an English government position and has been a British government position since the Acts of Union of 1707. A holder of the post would be the third-highest-ranked Great Officer of State ...
's ancestors came from the area. In 1564, Dee wrote the Hermetic work ''
Monas Hieroglyphica The Monas Hieroglyphica (or ''Hieroglyphic Monad'') is an esoteric Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term under which scholars have categorised a wide range of loosely re ...

Monas Hieroglyphica
'' ("The Hieroglyphic
Monad Monad may refer to: Philosophy * Monad (philosophy) Monad (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeas ...
"), an exhaustive
Cabalistic Cabalist or Cabalistic may refer to: *Cabal, a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in a church, state, or other community *Kabbalah, an esoteric method, discipline and school of t ...
interpretation of a
glyph The term glyph is used in typography Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system o ...
of his own design, meant to express the mystical unity of all creation. Having dedicated it to
Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II (31 July 1527 – 12 October 1576) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1564 until his death in 1576. A member of the Archduchy of Austria, Austrian House of Habsburg, he was crowned King of Bohemia in Prague on 14 May 1562 and imperial ...

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 Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a in . Spanning of the , it is bordered by to the north, to the northeast, to the east and southeast, to the south, and to the southwest and to the west. Hungary has a population of 10 million, mostl ...

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. His 1570 "Mathematical Preface" to
Henry Billingsley Sir Henry Billingsley (died 22 November 1606) was an English merchant, Lord Mayor of London The Lord Mayor of London is the Mayors in England, mayor of the City of London and the Leader of the council, leader of the City of London Corporation. ...
'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. In 1577, Dee published , a work setting out his vision of a maritime empire and asserting English territorial claims on the
New World The "New World" is a term for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas."America." ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'' (). McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 33: " 6c: from ...
. Dee was acquainted with Humphrey Gilbert and close to Sir Philip Sidney and his circle.


Later life

By the early 1580s, Dee was discontented with his progress in learning the secrets of nature and his diminishing influence and recognition in court circles. Failure of his ideas concerning a proposed calendar revision, colonial establishment and ambivalent results for voyages of exploration in
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
had nearly brought his hopes of political patronage to an end. He subsequently began to turn energetically towards the
supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the Scientific law, laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entity, non-physical entities, such as angels, demons, gods, and ghost, spirits. It ...

supernatural
as a means to acquire knowledge. He sought to contact spirits through the use of a "
scryer Scrying, also known by various names such as "seeing" or "peeping", is the practice of looking into a suitable medium in the hope of detecting significant messages or visions. The objective might be personal guidance, prophecy, revelation, or in ...
" or , which he thought would act as an intermediary between himself and the angels. Dee's first attempts with several scryers were unsatisfactory, but in 1582 he met
Edward Kelley Sir Edward Kelley or Kelly, also known as Edward Talbot (; 1 August 1555 – 1597/8),Schleiner 2004. was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spok ...
(then calling himself Edward Talbot to disguise his conviction for "coining" or
forgery Forgery is a white-collar crime The term "white-collar crime" refers to financially motivated, nonviolent or non directly violent crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. Th ...
), 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 Fasting is the willful refrainment from eating Eating (also known as consuming) is the ingestion Ingestion is the consumption of a substance by an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ...

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 Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...
. 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
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomad
ic life in Central Europe, meanwhile continuing their spiritual conferences, which Dee detailed in his diaries and almanacs. They had audiences with
Emperor Rudolf II Rudolf II (18 July 1552 – 20 January 1612) was Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator Romanorum, german: Kaiser der Römer) during the Middle Ages, and also known ...
in
Prague Castle Prague Castle ( cs, Pražský hrad; ) is a castle complex in Prague, Czech Republic, built in the 9th century. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for List of rulers of Bohemia, kings o ...

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 Kraków (), also written in English as Krakow and traditionally known as Cracow, is the second-largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, , german: Weichsel) is the longest ri ...

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 mediators, 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. In 1587, at a spiritual conference in
Bohemia Bohemia ( ; cs, Čechy ; ; hsb, Čěska; szl, Czechy) is the westernmost and largest historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, ...
, Kelley told Dee that the angel
Uriel Uriel ; or Auriel and ''Oriel''( he, אוּרִיאֵל ''ʾŪrīʾēl'', "El (deity), El/Dominus illuminatio mea, God is my light" or Light of God"; el, Οὐριήλ ''Ouriìl''; cop, ⲟⲩⲣⲓⲏⲗ ''Ouriyl''; it, Uriele; Geʽez and Am ...

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, who 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.


Final years

Dee returned to
Mortlake Mortlake is a suburban district of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames on the south bank of the River Thames between Kew and Barnes, London, Barnes. Historically it was part of Surrey and until 1965 was in the Municipal Borough of Barnes ...
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 The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abiliti ...
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. 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 left Manchester in 1605 to return to London, but remained Warden until his death. By that time, Elizabeth was dead and
James I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and King of Ireland, Ireland as James I from the Union of the Crowns, union of the Scottish and En ...

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.


Personal life

Dee was married three times and had eight children. He married his first wife, Katherine Constable (died 1574), in 1565, without issue. He married his second wife, whose name is unknown, in 1575. However she died in 1576, without issue. In 1578, when he was 51, he married thirdly the 23-year-old Jane Fromond (1555–1604), who had her own connection with the Elizabethan court as a lady-in-waiting to
Elizabeth FitzGerald, Countess of Lincoln Elizabeth FitzGerald, Countess of Lincoln (1527 – March 1590), also known as The Fair Geraldine, was an Irish noblewoman and a member of the celebrated FitzGerald dynasty The FitzGerald/FitzMaurice Dynasty is a Cambro-Norman, Anglo-Nor ...
until she married Dee. They had 7 or 8 children, namely:
Arthur Dee Arthur Dee (13 July 1579 – September or October 1651) was a physician and alchemist Depiction of Ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ''Aurora consurgens'' (15th century), Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Switzerland Alchemy (from Arabic: '' ...
(1579–1651), Michael Dee (died 1594), Rowland Dee, Katherine Dee, Madinia Dee, Frances Dee, Margaret Dee and, possibly, Theodore Dee (1588–1601). 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 1587, Kelley informed Dee of the angel's wish that they share wives. Theodore Dee, born nine months later, could have been fathered by Kelley, and not Dee. Jane died in Manchester of
bubonic plague Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the plague bacterium Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of biological cell The cell (from Latin ''cella'', meaning "small room") is the basic ...
and was buried in the
Manchester Cathedral Manchester Cathedral, formally the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George, in Manchester, England, is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Manchester, seat of the Bishop of Manchester and the ci ...

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 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.) While Arthur was a student at the
Westminster School (God Gives the Increase) , established = Earliest records date from the 14th century, refounded in 1560 , type = Public school Independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups ...
, Dee wrote to his headmaster echoing the normal worries of boarding-school parents. Arthur was an apprentice in much of his father's alchemical and scientific work and in fact often his diviner until Kelley appeared. He went on to become an alchemist and Hermetic author, whose works were published by
Elias Ashmole Elias Ashmole (; 23 May 1617 – 18 May 1692) was an English antiquary, politician, officer of arms An officer of arms is a person appointed by a sovereign or Sovereign state, state with authority to perform one or more of the following funct ...

Elias Ashmole
. The antiquary
John Aubrey John Aubrey (12 March 1626 – 7 June 1697) was an English antiquarian, antiquary, Natural philosophy, natural philosopher and writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the ''Brief Lives'', his collection of short biographical pieces. ...

John Aubrey
describes Dee as "tall and slender. He wore a gown like an artist's gown, with hanging sleeves, and a slit.... A very fair, clear sanguine complexion... a long beard as white as milk. A very handsome man."


Achievements


Thought

Dee was an intense Christian, but his religiosity was influenced by Hermetic and
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
nic-
Pythagorean Pythagorean, meaning of or pertaining to the ancient Ionian mathematician, philosopher, and music theorist Pythagoras Pythagoras of Samos, or simply ; in Ionian Greek () was an ancient Ionians, Ionian Ancient Greek philosophy, Greek philos ...

Pythagorean
doctrines pervasive in the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
. He believed that
numbers A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
were the basis of all things and key to knowledge. From
Hermeticism Hermeticism, or Hermetism, is a label used to designate a philosophical system that is primarily based on the purported teachings of Hermes Trismegistus Hermes Trismegistus (from grc, Ἑρμῆς ὁ Τρισμέγιστος, "Hermes the ...
he drew a belief that man had the potential for divine power that could be exercised through mathematics. His goal was to help bring forth a unified world religion through the healing of the breach of the
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Laz ...

Roman Catholic
and
Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of , but disagree among themselves ...
churches and the recapture of the pure
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed ...
of the ancients.


Advocating the establishment of colonies

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 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 Britannia () is the national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.ht ...

Britannia
kneeling by the shore beseeching Elizabeth I to protect her nation by strengthening her navy. Dee used Geoffrey's inclusion of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
in
King Arthur King Arthur ( cy, Brenin Arthur, kw, Arthur Gernow, br, Roue Arzhur) was a Legend, legendary Celtic Britons, British leader who, according to Historians in England during the Middle Ages, medieval histories and Romance (heroic literature), ...

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 The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

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. Dee posited a formal claim to North America on the back of a map drawn in 1577–1580; he noted that "circa 1494 Mr. Robert Thorn his father, and Mr. Eliot of Bristow, discovered Newfound Land." In his ''Title Royal'' of 1580, he invented a claim that Madog ab Owain Gwynedd had discovered America, intending thereby to boost England's claim to the New World over that of
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
's. He also asserted that
Brutus of Britain Brutus, or Brute of Troy, is a legendary descendant of the Troy, Trojan hero Aeneas, known in medieval British history as the eponymous founder and first king of Great Britain, Britain. This legend first appears in the ''Historia Brittonum'', an a ...
and King Arthur, as well as Madog, had conquered lands in the Americas, so that their heir, Elizabeth I of England, had a prior claim there.


Reputation and significance

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 Rosicrucianism is a spiritual and cultural movement A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', mea ...
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 Sir Edward Kelley or Kelly, also known as Edward Talbot (; 1 August 1555 – 1597/8),Schleiner 2004. was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spok ...
have made him a seemingly irresistible figure to
fabulist Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse (poetry), verse, that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphized, and that illustrates ...
s, writers of horror stories and latter-day
magicians Magician or The Magician may refer to: Performers * A practitioner of Magic (supernatural) * A practitioner of Magic (illusion) * Magician (fantasy), a character in a fictional fantasy context Entertainment Books * ''The Magician'', an 18th-cent ...
. 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. A revaluation of Dee's character and significance came in the 20th century, largely through the work of the historians Charlotte Fell Smith and Dame
Frances Yates Dame Dame is an honorific title and the feminine form of address for the honour of damehood in many Christian chivalric orders, as well as the British honours system and those of several other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia ...
. Both brought into focus the parallel roles of magic, science and religion in the Elizabethan
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
. Fell Smith writes: "There is perhaps no learned author in history who has been so persistently misjudged, nay, even slandered, by his posterity, and not a voice in all the three centuries uplifted even to claim for him a fair hearing. Surely it is time that the cause of all this universal condemnation should be examined in the light of reason and science; and perhaps it will be found to exist mainly in the fact that he was too far advanced in speculative thought for his own age to understand." Through this and subsequent re-evaluation, Dee is now viewed as a serious scholar and book collector, a devoted Christian (albeit at a confusing time for that faith), an able scientist and one of the most learned men of his day. His Mortlake library was the largest in the country before it was vandalised, and created at enormous, sometimes ruinous personal expense; it was seen as one of the finest in Europe, perhaps second only to that of
De ThouDe Thou may refer to: * Jacques Auguste de Thou (1553–1617), French historian, book collector and president of the Parlement de Paris * François Auguste de Thou (1607–1642), French magistrate, a councillor to the parliament of Paris in 1626, a ...

De Thou
. As well as being an astrological and scientific advisor to Elizabeth and her court, he was an early advocate of colonisation of North America, envisioning a British Empire stretching across the North Atlantic. Dee promoted the sciences of navigation and
cartography Cartography (; from χάρτης ''chartēs'', "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and γράφειν ''graphein'', "write") is the study and practice of making and using s. Combining , , and technique, cartography builds on the premise that rea ...
. He studied closely with
Gerardus Mercator Gerardus Mercator (; 5 March 1512 – 2 December 1594) was a 16th-century geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', lite ...

Gerardus Mercator
and owned an important collection of maps,
globe A globe is a spherical physical model, model of Earth, of some other astronomical object, celestial body, or of the celestial sphere. Globes serve purposes similar to maps, but unlike maps, they do not distort the surface that they portray except ...

globe
s and astronomical instruments. He developed new instruments and special navigational techniques for use in
polar regions The polar regions, also called the frigid zones, of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continent A continent ...
. Dee served as an advisor to English voyages of discovery, and personally selected pilots and trained them in navigation. He believed that mathematics (which he understood mystically) was central to human learning. The centrality of mathematics to Dee's vision makes him to that extent more modern than
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General for England and Wales, Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of K ...

Francis Bacon
, though some scholars believe Bacon purposely downplayed mathematics in the anti-occult atmosphere of the reign of James I. Although Dee's understanding of the role of mathematics differs much from ours, its promotion outside the universities was an enduring achievement. For most of his writings, Dee chose English, rather than Latin, to make them accessible to the public. His "Mathematical Preface" to Euclid was meant to promote the study and application of mathematics by those without a university education, and was popular and influential among the "mechanicians": a growing class of technical craftsmen and artisans. Dee's preface includes demonstrations of mathematical principles that readers could perform themselves without special education or training. In the 20th century, the Municipal Borough of Richmond (now the
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames () in southwest London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger up ...
) honoured John Dee by naming a street near Mortlake "Dee Road".


Calendar

Dee was a friend of
Tycho Brahe Tycho Brahe ( ; born Tyge Ottesen Brahe; 14 December 154624 October 1601) was a Danish astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. T ...

Tycho Brahe
and familiar with the work (translated into English by his ward and assistant,
Thomas Digges Thomas Digges (; c. 1546 – 24 August 1595) was an English mathematician and astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They obser ...
) of
Nicolaus Copernicus Nicolaus Copernicus (; pl, Mikołaj Kopernik; gml, link=no, Niclas Koppernigk, modern: ''Nikolaus Kopernikus''; 19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance polymath, active as a mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic Church, C ...

Nicolaus Copernicus
. Many of his astronomical calculations were based on Copernican assumptions, although he never openly espoused the
heliocentric Heliocentrism is the astronomical Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics ...
theory. Dee applied Copernican theory to the problem of
calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, specific day within such a system. A calendar is also ...

calendar
reform. In 1583, he was asked to advise the Queen on the new
Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, speci ...
promulgated by
Pope Gregory XIII Pope Gregory XIII ( la, Gregorius XIII; 7 January 1502 – 10 April 1585), born Ugo Boncompagni, was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3&nb ...

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.


Voynich manuscript

Dee has often been associated with the Voynich manuscript. , who bought the manuscript in 1912, suggested that Dee may have owned it and sold it to
Rudolph II Rudolf II (18 July 1552 – 20 January 1612) was Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, impera ...

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 The ''Book of Soyga'', also titled ''Aldaraia'', is a 16th-century Latin treatise on magic (paranormal), magic, one copy of which was owned by the Elizabethan scholar John Dee. After Dee's death, the book was thought lost until 1994, when two manu ...
'', another enciphered book.


Artefacts

The
British Museum The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End) is a district of Central London Central London is the innermost part of Lond ...

British Museum
holds several items once allegedly owned by Dee and associated with the spiritual conferences: * Dee's Speculum or
Mirror A mirror is an object that reflects an image An image (from la, imago) is an artifact that depicts visual perception Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment Environment most often refers t ...
(an
obsidian Obsidian (; ) is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when lava extrusive rock, extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth. It is an igneous rock. Obsidian is produced from felsic lava, rich in the lighter element ...
Aztec The Aztecs () were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec peoples included different Indigenous peoples of Mexico, ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those g ...

Aztec
cult object in the shape of a hand-mirror, brought to Europe in the late 1520s), which was subsequently owned by
Horace Walpole Horatio Walpole (), 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797), better known as Horace Walpole, was an English writer, art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whigs (British political party), Whig politician. He had Strawbe ...

Horace Walpole
. This was first attributed to Dee by Walpole.
Lord Frederick Campbell Lord Frederick Campbell (20 June 1729 – 8 June 1816) was a Scottish nobleman and politician. He was lord clerk register of Scotland, 1768–1816; Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live ...
had brought "a round piece of shining black marble in a leathern case" to Walpole in an attempt to ascertain its provenance. Walpole said he responded saying, "Oh, Lord, I am the only man in England that can tell you! It is Dr. Dee's black stone". However, there is no explicit reference to the mirror in any of Dee's surviving writings. * The small wax seals used to support the legs of Dee's "table of practice" (the table at which the
scrying Scrying, also known by various names such as "seeing" or "peeping", is the practice of looking into a suitable medium in the hope of detecting significant messages or visions. The objective might be personal guidance, prophecy A prophecy is ...
was performed) * The large, elaborately decorated wax "Seal of God", used to support the "shew-stone", the
crystal ball A crystal ball, also known as an obicular gazer or crystal sphere, is a crystal A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid Solid is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being liquid A liquid is a nearly i ...

crystal ball
used for scrying * A gold
amulet An amulet, also known as a good luck charm A good luck charm is an amulet or other item that is believed to bring good luck. Almost any object can be used as a charm. Coins and buttons are examples, as are small objects given as gifts, due t ...

amulet
engraved with a representation of one of Kelley's visions * A crystal globe, 6 cm in diameter. This item remained unnoticed for many years in the mineral collection; it is possibly the one owned by Dee, but the provenance is less certain than for the others. 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 Nicholas Culpeper (18 October 1616 – 10 January 1654) was an English botanist Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scienti ...
were stolen from the
Science Museum A science museum is a museum A museum ( ; plural museums or, rarely, musea) is a building or institution that Preservation (library and archival science), cares for and displays a collection (artwork), collection of artifacts and other ...
in London, but recovered shortly afterwards.


Science and sorcery

To 21st-century eyes, Dee's activities straddle
magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic Ceremonial magic (ritual magic, high magic or learned magic) encompasses a wide variety of rituals of Magic (supernatural), magic. The works included are characterized by ceremony and numerou ...
and modern
science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of ...

science
, but the distinction would have meant nothing to him. He was invited to lecture on
Euclidean geometry Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern ...
at the
University of Paris , image_name = Coat of arms of the University of Paris.svg , image_size = 150px , caption = , latin_name = Universitas magistrorum et scholarium Parisiensis , motto = ''Hic et ubique terrarum'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical ...
while still in his early twenties. He was an ardent promoter of mathematics, a respected astronomer and a leading expert in
navigation Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another.Bowditch, 2003:799. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navigation, ...

navigation
, who trained many who would conduct England's voyages of discovery. Meanwhile, he immersed himself in Magic (supernatural), sorcery, astrology and
Hermetic philosophy Hermeticism, or Hermetism, is a label used to designate a philosophical system that is primarily based on the purported teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (a legendary Hellenistic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth). Thes ...
. Much effort in his last 30 years went into trying to commune with angels, so as to learn the universal language of creation and achieve a pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind. A student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, he drew no distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations of Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination: all his activities were part of his quest for a transcendent understanding of divine forms underlying the visible world: Dee's "pure verities". Dee amassed one of England's biggest libraries. His scholarly status also took him into Elizabethan era, Elizabethan politics as an adviser and tutor to Elizabeth I and through relations with her ministers Francis Walsingham and William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, William Cecil. He tutored and patronised Sir Philip Sidney; his uncle Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester; Edward Dyer; and Sir Christopher Hatton.


Literary and cultural references

Dee was a popular figure in literary works by his contemporaries and he has continued to feature in popular culture, particularly in fiction or fantasy set during his lifetime or dealing with magic or the occult.


16th and 17th centuries

Edmund Spenser may be referring to Dee in ''The Faerie Queene'' (1596). William Shakespeare may have modelled the character of Prospero in ''The Tempest'' (1610–1611) on Dee.


19th century

Dee is the subject of Henry Gillard Glindoni's painting ''John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I''.


20th century

Dee is a major character in John Crowley (author), John Crowley's four-volume novel, ''Ægypt'', the first volume of which, ''The Solitudes (novel), The Solitudes'', was published in 1987.


21st century

Phil Rickman casts Dee as the main detective, investigating the disappearance of the bones of
King Arthur King Arthur ( cy, Brenin Arthur, kw, Arthur Gernow, br, Roue Arzhur) was a Legend, legendary Celtic Britons, British leader who, according to Historians in England during the Middle Ages, medieval histories and Romance (heroic literature), ...

King Arthur
during the reign of
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
in the historical mystery ''The Bones of Avalon'' (2010). The play ''Burn Your Bookes'' (2010) by Richard Byrne examines the relations between Dee, Edward Kelley, and Edward Dyer. The opera ''Dr Dee, Dr Dee: An English Opera'' (2011) by Damon Albarn, explores Dee's life and work.


Works

*
Monas Hieroglyphica The Monas Hieroglyphica (or ''Hieroglyphic Monad'') is an esoteric Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term under which scholars have categorised a wide range of loosely re ...

Monas Hieroglyphica
, 1564 * Preface to Billingsley's Euclid (Billingsley's translation of Euclid's Elements, Euclid's ''Elements''), 1570 * * ''De Heptarchia Mystica, On the Mystical Rule of the Seven Planets'', 1582–1583 * * * from the collected works known as ''Mysteriorum libri quinque'' * John Dee, ''The Mathematicall Praeface to the Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara (1570).'' New York: Science History Publications (1975) * John Dee, ''John Dee on Astronomy: Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558 & 1568)'' edited by Wayne Shumaker, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley: University of California Press * John Dee, ''Autobiographical tracts of John Dee, Warden of the College of Manchester'', ed. James Crossley. Chetham Society Publications, Vol XXIV. Manchester, 1851 * John Dee, ''Diary for the years 1595–1601'', ed. John E. Bailey. Privately printed, 1880 *


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External links

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John Dee reports of Dee and Kelley's conversations with Angels
edited in PDF by Clay Holden: Mysteriorum Liber Primus (with Latin translations), Notes to Liber Primus by Clay Holden, Mysteriorum Liber Secundus, Mysteriorum Liber Tertius
The J.W. Hamilton-Jones translation of ''Monas Hieroglyphica''
from ''Twilit Grotto: Archives of Western Esoterica''

{{DEFAULTSORT:Dee, John John Dee, 1527 births 1600s deaths 16th-century alchemists 16th-century astrologers 16th-century English astronomers 16th-century English mathematicians 16th-century English philosophers 16th-century occultists Alumni of St John's College, Cambridge Angelic visionaries British Empire Ceremonial magicians Christian Kabbalists Creators of writing systems English alchemists English astrologers English geographers English occult writers English people of Welsh descent English philosophers Enochian magic Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge Hermeticists Library history Mortlake, London Mystics Old University of Leuven alumni People from London People of the Elizabethan era Welsh alchemists Welsh geographers Welsh occult writers Welsh philosophers