Jerome Cardano was born in Italy in 1501. At the height of his career as a physician, mathematician and astrologer, his reputation stretched across Europe. He was summoned to Edinburgh to treat the Archbishop of Scotland’s debilitating asthma, and was called to London to draw up a horoscope for the ailing King Edward VI of England. Such was his fame that when he passed through Paris on his way to England, he was not allowed to leave the city without attending a conference convened in his honour.
Because of his mathematical abilities, Cardano was repeatedly offered work in military research all over the continent, which he always turned down. His texts teaching the public the basics of astronomy sold in vast numbers. Cardano's scientific writings were praised by the likes of Tycho Brahe and Gottfried Leibniz.
There was a darker side, however. Cardano was also the son of a brothel keeper, a gambler and blasphemer, beset by demons and anxieties…and, ultimately, a victim of the brutal Inquisition.
Despite his fame and success, Cardano was aware of his imperfections, and wrote his own appraisal of himself in an extraordinary autobiography: "I was ever hot tempered, single minded, and given to women...cunning, crafty, sarcastic, diligent, impertinent, sad and treacherous, miserable, hateful, lascivious, obscene, lying obsequious..."
"Cardano was a great man with all his faults; without them he would have been incomparable"