Benjamin Woolley

Writer, Broadcaster and Academic

The Queen's Conjuror

Described by a contemporary as an ‘Atlas’ upon whose shoulders the idea of a scientific universe rested, John Dee (1527–1608) was one of the most influential philosophers of the Elizabethan Age. A close confidant of Queen Elizabeth, he helped to introduce mathematics to England, promoted the idea of maths as the basis of science, anticipated the invention of the telescope, charted the New World, and created one of the most magnificent libraries in Europe. At the height of his fame, Dee was poised to become one of the greats of the Renaissance. Yet he died in poverty and obscurity – his crime was to dabble in magic.

Based on Dee’s secret diaries which record in fine detail his experiments with the occult, Woolley’s bestselling book is a rich brew of Elizabethan sexual intrigue, science, intellectual exploration, discovery and misfortune. And it tells the story of one man’s epic but very personal struggle to come to terms with the fundamental dichotomy of the scientific age at the point it arose: the choice between ancient wisdom and modern science as the path to truth.

‘An evocative portrait of the Tudor age – Dee casts a spell on the reader.’ Literary Review

‘An informative and enlightening book – immensely enjoyable. I have not read as stimulating a study of the Elizabethan period since Charles Nicholl’s book on Marlowe, The Reckoning.’

‘Woolley charts the course of the angelic discourses in spellbinding detail and with admirable objectivity - crammed with telling detail.’ Financial Times.

'A model of popular history... These minds of the past step forward in this book undeniably, obstreperously real.' Washington Post Book World

'An engrossing read.' Newsday