A brilliant physician and mathematician, who worked out probability because he loved to gamble, set out the solution of the cubic equation and gave his name to the cardan joint. In his lifetime, he printed many books, and he had many eccentricities. He constructed an elaborate system of private metaphysics, and claimed to have learned the "art of hoping for nothing." He fascinated Tulse Luper.

Girolamo Cardano had a crippling fear of being poisoned; he was accompanied everywhere by two young servants who tasted everything he was about to eat and drink. He had an odd habit with jewels. His wardrobe consisted of four sumptuous garments from which he created 14 different outfits. He fought insomnia by anointing his body in 17 places with a salve of poplar ointment, bear-grease and olive oil.

Sure, sure. Cardano was a great mathematician. I mean, even da Vinci consulted with him on matters of geometry. But he was, um, more interesting than that.

First, he didn't just 'love' to gamble. This guy was a Vegas dealer's wet dream... smart enough to understand probability and know when to quit, but dumb enough to just keep gambling anyway. Supposedly, he once slashed a man three times in the face when he thought he was being cheated.

Next : he was invited to the court of John Andrews, the Archbishop of St. Andrews. After staying with him for two months, he claimed that he had healed the good Archbishop of consumption. From then on, he proclaimed his boundless healing talents. It's not known whether the good Archbishop had consumption or not - some accounts say he had asthma, some say he had a simple fever, some say he was never sick at all. Either way, Cardano went on, preaching his mad doctoring skillz.

He loved astronomy - he gave King Edward VI a very favorable forecast for the coming year (which Edward then rudely refuted by dying after a few months). He published horoscopes for Christ and Martin Luther (except he deliberately monkeyed with Luther's birthdate to give him a very, very negative prediction).

He wrote a book expounding on the merit and virtues of Emperor Nero, apparently portraying the crazed sonofabitch as 'good people'. The Church didn't take too kindly of this, seeing as how Nero was the great tormentor of the martyrs and all, and Cardano was jailed for heresy.

And, finally, Cardano successfully predicted the day of his own death. Too bad he fulfilled it by committing suicide.

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