Friday, December 2, 2022

Predicting the Plague (and curing it!)

Diagram of solar eclipse with a biblical quotation Daniel 2:21-22
In 1652, one of London's most successful and esteemed physicians turned his attentions to the heavens to ponder the total eclipse of the sun that occurred on March 29. Nicholas Culpeper was one of those "gentlemen scientists" of the day. He dabbled in everything, because in his worldview, everything was connected and part of God's plan. So the blocking out of the sun, even though he could offer a clear scientific explanation, was still cause for concern--especially in London in the mid 1600s.

Just three years earlier, Charles the I was executed. Everything was turned on its head, and something big was afoot. Culpeper deduced that the eclipse heralded the second coming, so he wrote a pamphlet explaining the eclipse and issuing his dire warnings. Among his many predictions were a great plague and a fire. He got that right, but he was a little quick on the trigger. In 1665 London was hit by the Black Plague, and the following year, ravaged by the Great Fire.

As a physician, Culpeper was ready to help. He died in 1654, but he left behind a truly bizarre cure for the plague that you can read about here.

To read about the eclipse and its threats, ask for Nicholas Culpeper's Catastrophe magnatum: or, The Fall of the Monarchie. A Caveat to Magistrates, Deduced from the Eclipse of the Sunne, March 29 1652 (London: T. Vere and Nathe, 1652).