Culpepper, Nicolas (1616-1654)

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Culpepper, Nicolas (1616-1654)

Nicolas Culpepper, one of the most influential astrologers of all time, was born in Ockley, Surrey, England, on October 18, 1616. His father died shortly before he was born and he was raised by his mother and her father, a Church of England minister who taught him Greek and Latin. His good elementary education allowed him to attend Cambridge, where a life-changing tragedy afflicted him. Engaged to a young woman, he planned to run away with her and be married. However, on the way to their rendezvous point, she was killed in a freak accident. Culpepper suffered a nervous breakdown and refused to return to school. When he was disowned by his mother's family and left financially destitute, he apprenticed himself to an apothecary.

While becoming an accomplished apothecary, Culpepper also mastered astrology, and he began to link the two. His prosperity ensured by his 1640 marriage to a wealthy woman, he settled in London as herbalist. In 1649 Culpepper took the step that would earn him both his long-standing fame and the hostility of his colleagues. He published an English translation of the Pharmacopea, the book of healing remedies, a closely guarded secret of doctors and pharmacologists. He added to the volume his own astrological reflections, and his enemies used it as a means to ridicule him.

Culpepper developed tuberculosis probably in 1642 when he participated in the Battle of Edgehill with forces opposed to King Charles I. He was only 38 when on January 10, 1654, his illness caught up with him. His single book lived on as a standard medical reference book for several centuries and is still used today by people who prefer natural forms of healing. During the darkest days of astrology, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it remained in print and was a major source for people who began the astrological revival in the nineteenth century. It remains in print to the present.


Culpepper, Nicolas. Culpepper's English Physician and Herbal Remedies. North Hollywood, Calif.: Wilshire, 1971.

Inglis, Brian, and Ruth West. The Alternative Health Guide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.