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Sunday, March 23, 2014

The first computer astrology

‘Alan Leo’ was the pseudonym of William Frederick Alan, who was born in 1860 to a mother who was a member of the extremely puritanical Plymouth Brethren and a father who deserted the family when William was nine. After getting involved with the Theosophical Society in London, Alan changed his name by need poll to Alan Leo, and became the first really popular English astrologer for some centuries. He started The Astrologer’s Magazine, and with his wife Bessie set up a postal consultation service, inventing what was the basis of modern popular computer astrology by bringing together a number of separate sheets of paper each of which dealt with one aspect of the applicant’s birth-chart, stapling them together and sending them off. There was no attempt at synthesis (at least modern computers attempt this), but people loved the result, and the Leos made a fortune. In April 1914 Leo was arrested and tried ‘for that he did unlawfully pretend to tell fortunes and deceive and impose on’ a detective who had been set out to trap him. The charge was dismissed, but later he was tried again under the Vagrancy Act, with the notorious advocate Travers Humphreys acting for the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was convicted and fined five pounds. Some of his astrological textbooks are still in print.

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