Q. Who was Nostradamus?

Diane Isabelle Reinke, Silver Spring, Maryland

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin: 

Michel de Nostredame was born December 14 (or 21), 1503. His journals relate that he studied herbal medicine and worked as an apothecary before entering the University of Montpelier in 1521. At that time in history, sharp distinctions were made between “internal” and surgical medicine, so he was expelled when his work as an herbalist became known.

In 1550, Michel Latinized his name to Nostradamus, and he published an almanac containing a number of prophecies. The volume became so popular he published at least one each year and began composing the poems for which he is most famous, “The Prophecies.”

Most of these verses exist today, and fans of Nostradamus believe these verses have foretold events as momentous as the French Revolution, Hitler’s rise, the atomic bomb, President Kennedy’s assassination and 9/11. This claim is easy to make, as the verses are somewhat vague, and much can be read into them after the fact. Many of Nostradamus’ contemporaries considered him a fraud, but other influential individuals — for example, Marie de Medici — held him in high regard.

Nostradamus did not practice magic, so he fell out with the Church only once, when he failed to secure permission to print a volume of his almanac. He died July 2, 1566.