Gadbury, John (1627-1704)

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Gadbury, John (1627-1704)

John Gadbury, British astrologer and associate of astrologer William Lilly, was born on New Year's Day of 1627 in Wheat-ley, Oxon, England, the son of a farmer. As a youth he was apprenticed to a tailor, but in his late teens was sent to Oxford by his mother's father, Sir John Curson. After completing his studies, he married (1645) and, settling in Oxford, studied astrology with Dr. Nicolas Fiske. He published his first book on astrology in 1652. Two years later, with Timothy Gadbury (possibly a brother), he published a book of astrological charts of the kind needed to erect a horoscope. His primary text, the Doctrine of Nativities, appeared in 1659. This latter book surveyed natal astrology and supplied the set of tables from which charts could be prepared. With this book alone, the practicing astrologer could build a chart and offer a basic interpretation.

As a young man Gadbury made the acquaintance of William Lilly (25 years Gadbury's senior). Lilly appears to have been favorably impressed and wrote the introduction to one of Gadbury's books. However, they found themselves on opposite sides of the major political factions of the era, Gadbury favoring Oliver Cromwell, and Lilly supporting the king. However, in 1658, a series of events were initiated that led to a bitter break. In his 1658 Almanac, Lilly paid some compliments to Charles X, the king of Sweden, and predicted a long reign. In response, the next year Charles sent Lilly a gold chain. For reasons not altogether clear, Gadbury responded with a predicton that Charles' reign would be quite short. The king died the next year.

The hostile and competitive feeling between the two astrologers broke into the open again in 1675 when Lilly published some observations on the astrological sign Scorpio, emphasizing its negative traits. Gadbury took the publication personally as he had Scorpio rising in his chart. He attacked Lilly in his next book, Obsequim Rationabile (1675). Over the next several years, Lilly's supporters periodically attacked Gadbury and Lilly noted that Gadbury had responded by acting in the very manner typical of a Scorpio. The hard feelings continued even after Lilly's death in 1681. As late as 1693, John Partridge continued the attack in The Black Life of John Gadbury.

Apart from his lengthy battles with Lilly, Gadbury is most remembered for his Collectio Geniturarum, his astrological commentary on the lives of 150 famous, most notable contemporaries. Three centuries later, it provides a unique glimpse into the seventeenth century, though there are some notable errors in several birthdates.

After a long and productive life, Gadbury died in March of 1704.


Gadbury, John. Collectio Geniturarum. London: James Cottrel, 1662.

. Genethlialogia, or the Doctrine of Nativities. London, 1658.

. Obsequim Rationabile. London, 1675.

Holden, James H., and Robert A. Hughes. Astrological Pioneers of America. Tempe, Ariz.: American Federation of Astrologers, 1988.

McCaffery, Ellen. Astrology: Its History and Influence in the Western World. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1942.

Parker, Derek. Familiar to All: William Lilly and Astrology in the Seventeenth Century. London: Jonathan Cape, 1975.