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Dee, John

Dee, John, 1527–1608, English mathematician and occultist. He was educated at Cambridge. Accused of practicing sorcery against Queen Mary I, he was acquitted and later was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, for whom he drew up valuable hydrographical and geographical materials on newly discovered lands. He also made calculations in preparation for adoption of the Gregorian calendar in England, which he vainly sought. He is better remembered, however, for the more sensational side of his career. His interest in crystal gazing, divination, and the occult led to his association with Edward Kelly, who claimed to have discovered the alchemical secret of transmuting base metal to gold. Dee and Kelly spent several years abroad, patronized by various nobles and monarchs. When Dee finally broke with Kelly and returned to England, he found himself generally shunned and much of his property destroyed. Although he maintained the favor of Elizabeth and was warden of Manchester College (1595–1604), he later retired to seclusion, and died in poverty. Dee wrote extensively on his occult experiments and on mathematics, natural science, and astrology. His diary was edited in 1842 by J. O. Halliwell-Phillips.

See biographies by R. Deacon (1968), P. J. French (1972), and G. Parry (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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