John Dee was one of many who observed and recorded the supernova of 1572

[John Dee was one of many who observed and recorded the strange appearance of a new star in the cosmos. Since the stars stars had been hanging there unchanged ever since God put them there, a change was always disturbing. That something would change in the heavens was unexpected and ominous. John Dee and his compatriots were not naive but they lacked instruments and proof. The supernova they witnessed wasn’t identified until 1952. Thomas Digges, mentioned below, was raised in Dee’s house after the death of his father Leonard.]

Great Comet of 1577. Woodcut by Jiri Daschitzsky, Von einem Schrecklichen und Wunderbahrlichen Cometen so sich den Dienstag nach Martini M. D. Lxxvij. Jahrs am Himmel erzeiget hat (Prague (?): Petrus Codicillus a Tulechova, 1577)
Great Comet of 1577. Woodcut by Jiri Daschitzsky, Von einem Schrecklichen und Wunderbahrlichen Cometen so sich den Dienstag nach Martini M. D. Lxxvij. Jahrs am Himmel erzeiget hat (Prague (?): Petrus Codicillus a Tulechova, 1577)

The appearance of the Milky Way supernova of 1572 belongs among the more important observation events in the history of astronomy. The appearance of the “new star” helped to revise ancient models of the heavens and to speed on a revolution in astronomy that began with the realized need to produce better astrometric star catalogues (and thus the need for more precise astronomical observing instruments). It also challenged the Aristotelian dogma of the unchangeability of the realm of stars.
The supernova of 1572 is often called “Tycho’s supernova”, because of Tycho Brahe‘s extensive work De nova et nullius aevi memoria prius visa stella (“Concerning the Star, new and never before seen in the life or memory of anyone”, published in 1573 with reprints overseen by Johannes Kepler in 1602, and 1610), a work containing both Tycho Brahe’s own observations and the analysis of sightings from many other observers. Tycho was not even close to being the first to observe the 1572 supernova, although he was probably the most accurate observer of the object (though not by much over some of his European colleagues like Wolfgang Schuler, Thomas Digges, John Dee, Francesco Maurolico, Jerónimo Muñoz, Tadeáš Hájek, or Bartholomäus Reisacher).

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Dee’s Angelic revelations included 48 tables out of 49…

[Dee’s Angelic revelations included 48 tables out of 49, the 49th being reserved. Separately, the Volnich manuscript has a possible key on the 49th-numbered sheet. ]

A quire of paper is a measure of paper quantity. The usual meaning is 25 sheets of the same size and quality: 120 of a ream of 500 sheets. Quires of 25 sheets are often used for machine-made paper, while quires of 24 sheets are often used for handmade or specialised paper of 480-sheet reams. (As an old UK and US measure, in some sources, a quire was originally 24 sheets.) Quires of 15, 18 or 20 sheets have also been used, depending on the type of paper.

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The number of sheets in a ream has varied locally over the centuries, often according to the size and type of paper being sold. Reams of 500 sheets (20 quires of 25 sheets) were known in England in c.1594; in 1706 a ream was defined as 20 quires, either 24 or 25 sheets to the quire. In 18th- and 19th-century Europe, the size of the ream varied widely. In Lombardy a ream of music paper was 450 or 480 sheets; in Britain, Holland and Germany a ream of 480 sheets was common; in the Veneto it was more frequently 500. Some paper manufacturers counted 546 sheets (21 quires of 26 sheets). J.S. Bach’s manuscript paper at Weimar was ordered by the ream of 480 sheets. In 1840, a ream in Lisbon was 17 quires and 3 sheets = 428 sheets, and a double ream was 18 quires and 2 sheets = 434 sheets; and in Bremen, blotting or packing paper was sold in reams of 300 (20 quires of 15 sheets). A mid-19th century Milanese-Italian dictionary has an example for a risma (ream) as being either 450 or 480 sheets.

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Dee’s Angelic language….

[Dee’s Angelic language. He wasn’t crazy and he was the right man for the job. It just hasn’t panned out. Unless you consider mathematics as the Angelic language. Then it has.]

“According to Tobias Churton in his text The Golden Builders, the concept of an Angelic or antediluvian language was common during Dee’s time. If one could speak with angels, it was believed one could directly interact with them.”

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“Mathematics directs the flow of the universe, lurks behind its shapes and curves, holds the reins of everything from tiny atoms to the biggest stars.”
Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality
By Edward Frenkel

Mathematics has been an vocation…

Mathematics has been a vocation and a devotion for millenia, but not a full time job. Even in John Dee’s time, there wasn’t enough need for it. He lent his services to navigation, surveying, astronomy/astrology and probably encryption, but he couldn’t get a full-time job as a mathematician, even in academia. It wasn’t until the scientific/technological revolution really got going that mathematics became so critical. But for those who had been initiated into it, it has long been an occult key to the Universe and secret knowledge – the “Book of God.”]

From Wikipedia:

Rigorous arguments first appeared in Greek mathematics, most notably in Euclid‘s Elements. Since the pioneering work of Giuseppe Peano (1858–1932), David Hilbert (1862–1943), and others on axiomatic systems in the late 19th century, it has become customary to view mathematical research as establishing truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions. Mathematics developed at a relatively slow pace until the Renaissance, when mathematical innovations interacting with new scientific discoveries led to a rapid increase in the rate of mathematical discovery that has continued to the present day.

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) said, “The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word. Without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.”

Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) referred to mathematics as “the Queen of the Sciences”. Benjamin Peirce (1809–1880) called mathematics “the science that draws necessary conclusions”. David Hilbert said of mathematics: “We are not speaking here of arbitrariness in any sense. Mathematics is not like a game whose tasks are determined by arbitrarily stipulated rules. Rather, it is a conceptual system possessing internal necessity that can only be so and by no means otherwise.” Albert Einstein (1879–1955) stated that “as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” French mathematician Claire Voisin states “There is creative drive in mathematics, it’s all about movement trying to express itself.”

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For those who are mathematically inclined, there is often a definite aesthetic aspect to much of mathematics. Many mathematicians talk about the elegance of mathematics, its intrinsic aesthetics and inner beauty. Simplicity and generality are valued. There is beauty in a simple and elegant proof, such as Euclid‘s proof that there are infinitely many prime numbers, and in an elegant numerical method that speeds calculation, such as the fast Fourier transform. G.H. Hardy in A Mathematician’s Apology expressed the belief that these aesthetic considerations are, in themselves, sufficient to justify the study of pure mathematics. He identified criteria such as significance, unexpectedness, inevitability, and economy as factors that contribute to a mathematical aesthetic. Mathematicians often strive to find proofs that are particularly elegant, proofs from “The Book” of God according to Paul Erdős.

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Selections from an essay on the role of mathematics in English universities

[Selections from an essay on the role of mathematics in university education. As a mathematician – among other things – John Dee was well regarded, but remained unemployed because (in part) of limited opportunity. At the same time, as a mathematician and an intellectual, he was treated with suspicion by the general populace. Poor students worked very hard for advancement, while the sons of the gentry passed through onto their entitlements and privileges. Both John Dee and Christopher Marlowe (mid to late 16th C.) went through as poor scholars.]

“At the beginning of the 16th century mathematics and the mathematical sciences were of minor importance in the two English universities. In theory, mathematics had a place in the university curriculum through the quadrivial arts of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, but in practice the then traditional curriculum found little space for their teaching.”

“In addition to these institutional changes, contemporaries noted a gradual but pronounced shift in the social composition of the student body. The stereotype of the student as a poor scholar for whom university was a path to vocational (usually ecclesiastical) advancement was challenged by the presence of increasing numbers of sons of the gentry.”

“…At both Oxford and Cambridge, mathematics had a place on the margins of these reforms.”

“…Certainly, English university provision appeared weak and provincial when compared with the reformed universities of Germany, for example. Under Melanchthon’s leadership, the quadrivial arts (and especially astronomy) were given new institutional impetus by the creation of full professorships.”

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Chapter 1 (pp. 1-49) of Stephen Johnston’s , “Making mathematical practice: gentlemen, practitioners and artisans in Elizabethan England.” Ph.D. Cambridge, 1994.

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Charlotte Fell-Smith’s book on Dee

[From Charlotte Fell-Smith’s book on Dee (downloadable as a PDF below):]

Since Dee’s departure from England six years ago, great events had happened. The “invincible” Armada of Philip had been beaten in a six days’ running fight up the Channel. The Queen’s hated rival, Mary Queen of Scotland, had been put to death; Leicester’s short dictatorship of the Netherlands had begun and come to an end. Leicester had been dead about a year. New favourites had arisen in the Queen’s favour. But even more significant than these public affairs had been the upward movement in literature, the birth of dramatic art, a passionate outburst of poetic fervour, the growth of a taste for well-disciplined prose.

Many splendid fruits of this movement had not yet seen the light, Sidney’s Arcadia and the first part of Spenser’s Faerie Queen were to be issued within a few months; the first play of Shakespeare was publicly performed within little more than a year of Dee’s return.

But Lyly and Marlowe had already, during his absence, given Campaspe, Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus, to be performed by actors in the first stationary home of the earlier nomadic players, the theatres of Shoreditch, immediately to be followed by those of Bankside. Bacon was perhaps even then meditating his Essays, published some half a dozen years later; Hooker issued the first books of his monumental Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity within four years; and Nash, Peele, Green, and a horde of other writers, were contributing to establish the English literary renaissance. One can scarcely help wondering how much the fabulous stories of Dee and Kelley, which must have reached Marlowe’s ears, contributed to his splendid dramatisation of the Faust legend (first printed in Frankfort in 1587). But after all, even the story of Dee’s angels and Kelley’s gold, pales before the lurid glow of the stories of the earlier alchemists, Agrippa and Paracelsus.

John Dee by Charlotte Fell-Smith (1909)

No courtier would publicly admit to such interests…

[The problem with conjuring spirits and such – as Faust did – was not so much that people thought you were nuts, but that people were afraid you would succeed. In our day we have similar anxieties about AI and aliens. You might protest that they were ignorant and we are not, but clearly nothing’s changed. As mentioned, it was the same thing with Faust: he wanted the secrets of God, but wasn’t really capable of handling them. It’s also true of Western Civilization and our science and technology – we want God’s secrets, but there’s good reason to fear we’re going to obliterate the planet with them. Here is how Western Civilization is Faustian – we’re willing to take the chance. In fact we’re already committed. Too many of our “advancements” have created lethal problems that depend on future solutions.]

No courtier would publicly admit to such interests, not because it would make him seem gullible-the existence of spirits was as clear as the existence of God-but because it would suggest that he was trying to tap into a reservoir of power that was not his to control. It is unsurprising, then, that Dee was so discreet about his own spiritual activities, and those of his powerful friends.

The Queen’s Conjurer, The Science and Magic of Dr John Dee – Benjamin Woolley.

The accusations against Dee were many and various…

“The accusations against Dee were many and various, but focused not on his religious leanings so much as his links with mathematics and magic. “In those dark times,” the seventeenth-century historian John Aubrey wrote of Dee’s era, “astrologer, mathematician and conjuror were accounted the same things.” This was certainly the case with Dee. He was charged with “calculating,” “conjuring,” and “witchcraft” on the grounds that he had drawn up horoscopes for Mary, her husband Philip of Spain, and Elizabeth. He was probably guilty. The remnant of his diary for this period includes an entry (inaccurately transcribed by Elias Ashmole) showing the date and time of Mary’s marriage to Philip, and noting that the rising sign at the moment of their wedding- 11 A.M., 25 July 1554-was Libra (a good omen, as Libra was the sign associated with marriage or partnership, ruled by Venus).”

The Queen’s Conjurer, The Science and Magic of Dr John Dee – Benjamin Woolley

Dee’s Faustian pursuit of his own interests in defiance of

[Dee’s Faustian pursuit of his own interests in defiance of convention requires justification. But fraud is the hallmark of the Devil, and Kelley – who claims to hate the whole operation – in a time of stress invokes the acid test that all Faustian seekers must demand of their demons and angels: tell me something I don’t know.]

‘Kelley was still murmuring under the mystical dealings of the angels. “Let them give me somewhat profitable to my body, or some wisdom to my mind’s behoof, and then I will believe in them,” he says. Then he protests he will confess all to the priest, and if the holy father does not allow their doings or counsel to be genuine, neither will he.

The remarkable answer that Dee gives again shows us how in advance he was of his times in matters spiritual as well as scientific. “The authority of good angels or messengers from God is greater,” says he, “than the authority of the Pope, or priests.”’

John Dee by Charlotte Fell-Smith (1909)

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