Cardan, Jerome (1501–1576)
Italian mathematician, physician, and astrologer, reputed to
be a magician. He was a contemporary of Faustus and Paracelsus.
He left in his Memoirs a frank and detailed analysis of a curiously
complicated and abnormal intellect, sensitive, intense,
and not altogether free from the taint of insanity. He declared
himself subject to strange fits of abstraction and exaltation, the
intensity of which became at length so intolerable that he inflicted
on himself severe bodily pain as a means of banishing
Cardan described three personal peculiarities to which he
was prone. The first was the faculty of projecting his spirit outside
his body, to the accompaniment of strange physical sensations.
The second was the ability to perceive through his senses
anything he desired to perceive; as a child, he explains, he saw
these images involuntarily and without the power of selection,
but when he reached manhood he could control them to suit
his choice. The third peculiarity was that before every important
event in his life he had a dream that warned him about it.
Indeed, he had written a commentary of considerable length
on Synesius’s treatise on dreams, in which he advanced the theory
that any virtuous person can acquire the faculty of interpreting
dreams. In fact, he believed anyone can draw up for
himself a code of dream interpretations by merely studying
carefully his own dreams.
In one instance, at least, Cardan’s prediction was not entirely
successful. He foretold the date of his own death, and, at age
75, was obliged to abstain from food in order to die at the time
he had predicted.
He published books on mathematics, astronomy, astrology,
rhetoric, and medicine, including Ars Magna (1545), De Subtilitate
Rerum (1551), and De Rerum Varietate (1557).
Morley, H. Jerome Cardan. London, 1854.
Waters, W. G. Jerome Cardan. London, 1898.

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