Astrologer and physician. Born Michel de Nostradame, December 14 or 21 1503. French astrologer and physician known for his prophecies which he published in a book entitled The Prophecies in 1555, which have become famous worldwide.
Michel de Nostradame was born in the south of France in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, one of nine children to Reyniere de St-Remy, and her husband Jaume de Nostradame, a well-to-do grain dealer and part-time notary of Jewish dissent. Nostradame’s grandfather, Guy Gassonet, had converted to Catholicism a half century earlier and changed the family name to Nostradame, in part to avoid persecution during the Inquisition.
Little is known of his childhood, but evidence indicates he was very intelligent as he quickly advanced through school. Early in his life, he was tutored by his maternal grandfather, Jean de St. Remy, who saw great intellect and potential in his grandson. During this time, young Nostradame was taught the rudiments of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and mathematics. It is believed that his grandfather also introduced him to the ancient rights of Jewish tradition and the celestial sciences of astrology, giving Nostradame his first exposure to the idea of the heavens and how they drive human destiny.
At the age of 14, Nostradame entered the University of Avignon to study medicine. He was forced to leave after only one year, however, due to an outbreak of the bubonic plague. According to his own account, he traveled throughout the countryside during this time, researching herbal remedies and working as an apothecary. In 1522 he entered the University of Montpelier to complete his doctorate in medicine. He sometimes expressed dissension with the teachings of the Catholic priests, who dismissed his notions of astrology. There are some reports that university officials discovered his previous experience as an apothecary and found this reason to expel him from school. Evidently the school took a dim view of anyone who was involved in what was considered a “manual trade.” However, most accounts state he was not expelled and received license to practice medicine in 1525. At this time he Latinized his name—as was the custom of many medieval academics—from Nostradame to Nostradamus.
Over the next several years, Nostradamus traveled throughout France and Italy, treating victims of the plague. There was no known remedy at the time; most doctors relied on potions made of mercury, the practice of bloodletting, and dressing patients in garlic soaked robes. Nostradamus had developed some very progressive methods for dealing with the plague. He didn’t bleed his patients, instead practicing effective hygiene and encouraging the removal of the infected corpses from city streets. He became known for creating a “rose pill,” an herbal lozenge made of rosehips (rich in Vitamin C) that provided some relief for patients with mild cases of the plague. His cure rate was impressive, though much can be attributed to keeping his patients clean, administering low-fat diets, and providing plenty of fresh air.