Girolamo Cardano, Living Fully, and Predicting Death

Girolamo Cardano was not only one of the most notable mathematicians of the Renaissance era, he also had many varied interests including astrology.

Cardano’s Maths

Girolamo Cardano wrote many books on maths, notably The Practice of Arithmetic and Simple Mensuration, Liber de Ludo Alea, and the Artis magnae sive de regulis algebraicis liber unus (Ars Magna), Cardano worked with mathematician Niccolò Tartaglia, after promising that he would never publish the research to solve cubic and quartic equations. He then published the research in Ars Magna. It was also in the Ars Magna that Cardano presented one of the first calculations with complex numbers. In total, he wrote roughly 111 books in manuscripts—even after burning 170! His book Liber de Ludo Aleae (The Book on Games of Chance) is thought to be one of the first mathematical analysis on gambling. It introduces many now-well-known concepts, such as a sample space of equally likely events. Hence, he is mostly known for his work in statistics and Cardano’s Solution, his work on cubic equations.

A title page of Cardano's first book. The top half has the following text, "Hieronymi Car / Dani, Praestanissimi mathe / matici, philosophi, AC Medici/ Artis Magnae, /  sive de regvlis algebraicis/ lib, unus, Qui & totius operis de Arithmetica, quod / Opvs Perfectvm / infcripfit, eftin ordine decimus" Underneath that text there is a right facing portrait of man in a gown. He is drawn in an outline style. He is surrounded by an oval shape with greek text in between lines of the text. On the last third of the page is more greek text of the book.
Cardano’s first book, The Ars Magna.
Image credit: Oporinus, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
A circular star chart with the sun positioned in  Libra  10°, 40°, 50°, the moon positioned in Pisces 10°, 39°, 58°, Mercury positioned in Libra 26°, 27°, 2°, Venus positioned in Libra 23°, 10°, 27°, Mars positioned in Cancer 11°, 14°, 45°, Jupiter  positioned in Taurus 2°, 39°, 51°, Saturn positioned in Cancer 19°, 19°, 39°, Uranus positioned in Cancer 0°, 40°, 37°, Neptune positioned in Capricorn 16°, 35°, 31°, Pluto positioned in Scorpio 25°, 56°, 58°, Mean Node positioned in Taurus 11°, 36°, 21°, and Chiron positioned in Pisces 7°, 9°, 36°
Cardano’s natal chart
Image credit: fair dealing via Astro Dienst.

Predicting Death 

Predicting one’s own death is hard. Western Astrologers today typically do not endorse it. Neither does Maths from the Past. Astrologers of Cardano’s day did not really seem to mind. Astrology is not a science, but it was thought to be one in the 1500’s. It would make sense that a distinguished man like Cardano would study it. The stars were thought to contain the future, and it would be foolish not to utilise them for your gain! Predicting your death would be incredibly beneficial––you wouldn’t have to worry about saving money past that point or dying before it.   

There’s little evidence that Cardano actually predicted his own death. Even if he did, there isn’t a step-by-step method we know of, but here’s how you could prepare. 

The first thing you will need is your natal chart. – Cardano’s can be seen on the left!

The second is a method. Supposedly, death can be predicted using this chart through ancient source such as the Tetrabiblos — linked below. (Book 3, Chapter 10) Astrology is a complex “science” and as much as we would like to summarise this method, it became confusing fast. Here’s some of the method: 

…by day we must give first place to the sun, if it is in the prorogative places; if not, to the moon; and if the moon is not so placed, to the planet that has most relations of domination to the sun, to the preceding conjunction, and to the horoscope; that is, when, of the five methods of domination 64 that exist, it has three to one, or even more; but if this cannot be, then finally we give preference to the horoscope. By night prefer the moon first, next the sun, next the planets having the greater number of relations of domination to the moon, to the preceding full moon, and to the Lot of Fortune; otherwise, finally, if the preceding syzygy was a new moon, the horoscope, but if it was a full moon the Lot of Fortune.

Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, Book 3, Chapter 10

You can see why Cardano’s prediction was considered so impressive!

If you still want to try, here’s some astrology tips from us:

  1. Degrees are read counterclockwise. 
  1. Each numbered segment above is 30º 
  1. “Death” in astrology can mean great change, and that change is dictated by planets as well.  
  1. The Natal Chart provided should aid in finding the “prorogative places,” as the houses are numbered. 
  1. This is not a real science, and you will not accurately predict your death this way

Of course, Cardano wasn’t supposed to die on his predicted date. To fulfil the prophecy, some say that he killed himself, though even the method is unsure. Some say poison, some say There isn’t too much of a positive spin on this, but perhaps we can learn that the only prophecies that come true are ones within your reach. 

You can read more astrology here.

Julie Hatfield


Cardano, Geronimo. The Book of My Life. Translated by Jean Stoner, E.P Dutton and Co, 1930.

Grafton, Anthony. “Girolamo Cardano and the Tradition of Classical Astrology the Rothschild Lecture, 1995.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 142, no. 3, 1998, pp. 323–54. JSTOR, Accessed 20 Feb. 2023.

ISAR. “Ethical Standards and Guidelines.” ISAR, International Society for Astrological Research, Dec. 2007,

O’Connor, JJ, and EF Robertson. “Girolamo Cardano.” MacTutor, University of St Andrews, June 1998,

Ore, Øystein. Cardano: The Gambling Scholar, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953.

Ptolemy, Claudius. Tetrabiblos. Translated by Frank Egleston Robbins, Harvard University Press, 1940.

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