See caption
John Gadbury (1627–1704)
by Thomas Cross, 1658
National Portrait Gallery

John Gadbury (1627–1704) was an English astrologer, astronomer and a prolific writer of almanacs. He also published works on astrology, astronomy and natural philosophy. Along with William Lilly and John Partridge, Gadbury was one of the three best-known English astrologers during the second half of the 17th century.[1]

Gadbury was born on 31 December 1627 in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, the son of Oliver Gadbury, a gentleman farmer, and his wife Frances. He was briefly apprenticed to a tailor in Oxford before taking up studies with the mathematician and astrologer Nicholas Fiske in 1644, paid for by his maternal grandfather.[1]

Gadbury’s first publication appeared in 1652, Philastrogus Knavery Epitomized, in which he defended “Mr. Culpepper, Mr. Lilly and the rest of the students in that noble Art [astrology]” against an attack by William Brommerton; two years later he published Animal cornutum, or, A Brief Method of the Grounds of Astrology.[1]


The first of Gadbury’s almanacs appeared in 1655, Speculum Astrologicum, which was replaced after two issues by An Astrological Prediction. The title was changed in 1659 to Ephēmeris‎, or, A Diary Astronomical and Astrological, which Gadbury continued to produce annually until the year before his death. He also published occasional special issues, such as The Jamaica Almanack, or, An Astrological Diary (1673).[1]

Later life

In 1658 Gadbury published a “thoroughly traditional textbook of judicial astrology”, Genethlialogia‎, or, The doctrine of nativities … together with the doctrine of horarie questions, with the approval of William Lilly. But he gradually moved to a more sceptical viewpoint, becoming Lilly’s bitterest critic and rival, and led a programme to reform astrology along more scientific lines.[1]

The views Gadbury expressed resulted in a number of brushes with the authorities: imprisonment (wrongful) at the time of the Popish Plot and suspicion later of plotting against William III of England; omitting the anniversary of the discovery of the 1605 Gunpowder PlotAttempt in 1605 to assassinate King James I and re-establish a Catholic monarchy by blowing up the House of Lords. from his almanacs,[2] for which he was twice burnt in effigy by a London street mob, along with the pope.[1]

Personal life

Gadbury was married twice, but nothing is known of his wives. He died on 24 March 1704 and was buried at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster four days later, without a gravestone or memorial.[3] For a short time, Gadbury’s cousin Job continued to produce his almanac.[1]