About the astrologers

An astrologer working

Wellcome Library, London

Simon Forman (1552–1611) and his protegé Richard Napier (1559–1634) were the best-known astrologer–physicians of their day. They make a somewhat odd couple. Forman was a pugnacious, largely self-educated man of relatively humble origins, and an avid womaniser. Napier was a learned cleric of sober habits and shy demeanour. Yet they became close friends and collaborators, and Napier was not ashamed to take instruction in the astrological art from a man who would generally have been considered his social and academic inferior. Napier was assisted at various times by his curate Gerence James, by his nephew and namesake Richard (later Sir Richard) Napier, and by other assistants. For details about Napier's assistants and collaborators, and examples of their hands, see our Hands in the casebooks page.

Both practices were attended by clients from every walk of life, from aristocrats and bishops to servants and beggars. The London-based Forman served a predominantly urban clientele, the Buckinghamshire-based Napier a largely rural one. The casebooks compiled by these practitioners are exceptional both for the sheer quantity of data they contain (over 80,000 cases spanning more than forty years) and for the glimpses they provide into the lives of a huge range of people otherwise lost to historical record.

Document last modified: 14 August 2017

Cite this as: Casebooks Project (About the astrologers), http://www.magicandmedicine.hps.cam.ac.uk/on-astrological-medicine/about-the-astrologers, accessed 2018-08-17.