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For the last 500 years the predictions of sixteenth-century physician and prophet Michel de Nostredame, better known as Nostradamus, have been endlessly interpreted. Scholars and skeptics have hotly debated whether the 946 "quatrains" he wrote foretold everything from the discovery of electricity to the birth of Adolph Hitler, the death of Princess Diana and the attack on the World Trade Center.
But while much has been written about Nostradamus's predictions and their validity, little is known of the man. This definitive biography by bestselling historian Ian Wilson reveals the man behind the legend for the first time. Tracing Nostradamus's life from his early years to his skillful treatment of Black Plague sufferers, his flight from agents of the Spanish Inquisition, and his career as an advisor to the king of France, Nostradamus separates fact from fiction and reveals a complex figure who, whether or not he could see future events, was indelibly marked by those of his own time.
The 16th-century astrologer Michel de Nostredame, known as Nostradamus, has attracted mostly promoters or detractors. In this book, offered for the 500-year anniversary of his birth, Wilson intends to uncover the historical person rather than evaluate his success or failure as a prognosticator. Wilson (The Turin Shroud) coaxes details out of a handful of sources and sorts through the available bits of contradictory information about Nostradamus. The resulting work is thin, however, offering no great depth in recreating the era and missing an opportunity to examine the relation between early modern science and the occult. Wilson cheerfully admits he knew little about his subject before beginning this work. He criticizes earlier authors for not using an astrological chart made for the future Emperor Rudolf II or a prolific letter writer's archive but finds himself, through admitted language deficiencies or time constraints, also unable to use them. The book lingers on details only tangentially related to its subject, including extended sections on Rabelais and various royalty. Some parts read like a travelogue, describing the buildings and monuments of the towns where Nostradamus lived and traveled, letting potential visitors know what they'll find in the wax museum at Nostradamus's home. The greatest service this book offers is to insist on treating Nostradamus as a man rather than a mysterious presence. In the end, however, Wilson spends considerable space disproving particular predictions, and comments generally that "astrology is all quackery," but is not able to explain why Nostradamus nonetheless remains such a lasting influence. 80 b&w illus.