English scholar/mystic/conman (1527-1608). As a student at St. John's College, Cambridge, Dee was a talented student, easily learning a number of diverse subjects, including classical languages, mathematics, and astronomy. While at Cambridge, he gained a reputation as a magician because of the special effects that he devised for a play. At the age of 20, he began traveling in Europe, studying and teaching at various universities. He began to call himself "Doctor" John Dee, though no one knows if he really earned the title.

After returning to England in 1551, he spent the next 30 years as a tutor to members of the aristocracy. He became wealthy and famous, and began writing and consulting on a variety of topics: astronomy, navigation, cryptography, calendar reform, antiquarianism, and England's historical claims to an empire (in fact, he coined the terms "the British Empire" and "Britannia").

Dee's reputation as a sorceror grew. He studied astrology, Gnosticism, and the metaphysics of Hermes Trismegistus. He was consulted when a witch's poppet of Queen Elizabeth was discovered. He tried to call up angels, with the assistance of Edmund Kelley, a medium. Kelley would hold seances and relay angelic conversations in a language called "Enochian," which Dee believed was the ancient language of the angels. Dee and Kelley went to Krakow in the service of a pretender to the Polish throne, but soon enough, Kelley revealed himself as a fraud and hoaxer, and Dee returned to England alone. Upon reaching England, Dee was heartbroken to discover that his home and library had been looted by a mob.

Dee continued to seek profitable positions with the aristocracy, but after James I, a man who greatly feared witchcraft and magic, came to the throne, Dee fell out of favor and ended his days in genteel poverty.

It is still not known for sure if Dee was a conman or just gullible (or, if you listen to some occultists, right on the money). At any rate, his influence was fairly profound: he promoted mathematical education, he virtually invented British Imperialism, and William Shakespeare used him as the model for Prospero in "The Tempest."

Research from GURPS Who's Who, compiled by Phil Masters, "John Dee" by Michael Cule, pp. 68-69.

Additional Info from Grzcyrgba: Your bio of John Dee is interesting, though it seems a wee bit biased toward his occult leanings. What we could now consider "occult" and what we could consider "science" were freely interchangeable back then (even Newton was a devoted alchemist). I'm reading Dee's bio at St. Andrews' website (www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Mathem aticians/dee.html) and they make the hilarious/frightening note that performing mathematics was actually a crime in England at the time -- it was considered sorcery! A humble suggestion for one tidbit you might add: Dee edited the first English translation of Euclid's Elements, in 1570, and wrote the introduction which is probably his most famous work.

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