John Dee, the original Wizard "007"
Who was John Dee? He is virtually unknown in modern times, although he has had a profound influence on popular culture- without him, there would be no Harry Potter, no Gandalf, no wizard bearing a crystal ball. As a brilliant magician, mathematician, scientist, and secret agent, John Dee was the original Renaissance man. Something of a prodigy, Dee entered St. John's College at Cambridge at age 15. He achieved notoriety early on with a charge of sorcery, which stemmed from a mechanical flying beetle demonstrated in a stage play. After spending many years studying mathematics and cartography, he took an interest in natural magic, a pastime then accepted by the church. From his studies he developed a doctrine that one could obtain knowledge of God from the applied practice of magick- a controversial idea that was to get him into trouble on a number of occasions.
His notoriety as a skilled astrologer eventually caught the attention of Queen Mary's court, and he was asked to cast horoscopes for the Queen and her prospective husband, Philip of Spain. During this time, he made the mistake of befriending the Princess Elizabeth, then in captivity as a political rival of Queen Mary. Hysteria was roused, and he was charged, tried, and acquitted of attempting to kill Mary with black magic. Shortly after his release, Mary did die and Elizabeth ascended the throne. Elizabeth had not forgotten her friend, and Dee was asked to choose an auspicious date for her coronation. Their friendship continued, although in much secrecy, due to Dee's growing (if undeserved) reputation as a black magician. Her Majesty's Service Dee eventually became Elizabeth's court astrologer, and soon after, her spy. As an agent of the crown, Dee conducted several mysterious missions for purposes mostly unknown to this day. He relished his espionage duties, creating elaborate, sophisticated ciphers. In his correspondence with the Queen during these episodes, he signed his communiqués "007," a moniker that would be used again, as any fan of the spy genre will recognize.
In between spy missions, Dee continued his studies in mathematics, cartography, and alchemy, as well as his experiments in magic. He developed state of the art navigational techniques, instituted the use of telescopes and navigational equipment in the military, and developed secret codes for military communication. He also translated many important mathematical works, and introduced the English speaking world to Euclidian Geometry.
The Pedigree which Dee made, tracing his descent from the mythical times of King Arthur, and showing Queen Elizabeth, through her Welsh ancestry, as related to the same source, is illuminated with coats of arms and a small coloured profile portrait of “John Dee, philosophus,” in a cap and furred gown. He here (Cotton Charter, xiv. 1) describes his grandfather, Bedo Dee, as a soldier fighting under the Emperor Maximilian I., in 1512; his father, Rowland Dee, armiger, as gentleman sewer to King Henry VIII.; and himself as a philosopher.