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Painting by Glindoni of John Dee performing an experiment for Elizabeth I.	Source: Henry Gillard Glindoni/ CC BY 4.0

Queen Elizabeth I's Astronomer, John Dee (Video)


Dr. John Dee, the Renaissance luminary and confidant to Queen Elizabeth I, epitomized the intellectual spirit of 16th-century England. A polymath with interests ranging from astrology to mathematics and the occult, Dee defied societal skepticism toward mathematics, a discipline then viewed with suspicion akin to magic. Excelling as a scholar, he orchestrated mesmerizing feats, such as a theatrical illusion of flight, challenging the boundaries of perception. Dee's journey unfolded with encounters shaping his worldview. Friendship with cartographer Duras Mercator expanded his understanding of the Earth's surface. Later, a sojourn in Brussels and a meeting with Sir William Pickering revealed Dee's diplomatic acumen.

Despite accusations during Queen Mary's reign, his conviction that science was a form of worship endured. Queen Elizabeth's favor marked a turning point, and Dee's influence extended into realms beyond academia. His magnum opus delved into a universal language in nature, seeking to unravel the secrets of creation. Notably, his work on navigation subtly hinted at the concept of a British Empire. Misunderstood in his time, Dee's legacy reverberates in the foundations of science, cartography, and the nascent idea of empire, shaping England's historical trajectory.

Top image: Painting by Glindoni of John Dee performing an experiment for Elizabeth I. Source: Henry Gillard Glindoni/ CC BY 4.0

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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