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John D. North (1934–2008): Between Demonstration and Imagination

This episode, the first of a new series, commemorates the life and work of historian John D. North. Today, on the anniversary of his departure, Professor Julio Samsó, a close friend of John North, shares with us his experience of the man and of the academic.

John David North (19 May 1934 – 31 October 2008) was, in the words of Professor Charles Burnet “the leading British historian of astronomy of his generation. His interests ranged from prehistoric astronomical alignments to modern nuclear physics, but peaked with the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in which he brought out a richness and complexity that hith- erto had hardly been seen. In every subject he sought to cast light on the society, culture and literature of the period. His daring interpretations were not immune to controversy, but in everything he published and lectured on he demonstrated intellectual honesty and a mastery of the mathematical detail.” (

Among his many works, there are many important contributions to the history of astrology. Two of them are:

– Horoscopes and History (London, 1986), where North presents a pioneer work on the methods of house division.

– Chaucer’s Universe (Oxford, 1988), in which he discusses the astrological symbolism underlying Chaucer’s work.

A bibliography of John North can be found at:

Audio version:
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