history and philosophy of astrology

Top 10 Astrologers of All Time

Top 10 Astrologers of All TimeThis is a list of the most famous and most influential astrologers of all time.

The list mainly covers astrologers who played an important role in the astrological tradition over the past 3,000 years, and it does not include any astrologers who are still alive today, or who lived relatively recently.  I plan to compile a list of the most famous contemporary astrologers in a separate article.

There is often a distinction between astrologers who were famous or influential within the astrological community versus those who were famous outside of it.  This list contains a bit of both, with some of the names belonging to very famous people, and others belonging to people who were influential within the astrological tradition but not very famous outside of it.

I’m going to focus primarily on the western astrological tradition here, since I’m not familiar enough with the history of Indian astrology to rank astrologers from that tradition yet.  At some point I will try to compile a list for that tradition though.

With those prefatory remarks out of the way, let’s get started with the list of top 10 astrologers of all time:

10. Nechepso & Petosiris

In the 1st century BCE an extremely influential series of books were written which became the foundational texts of the Hellenistic tradition of astrology.   These books contained some of the core concepts that are still used in western astrology to this day.

For some reason the author of these works decided to remain anonymous, and instead he ascribed the compilation or series to an Egyptian king named Nechepso, and to a priest named Petosiris.

Sometimes Nechepso and Petosiris are mentioned separately, which seems to indicate that there were specific books that were specifically ascribed to one figure or the other, but most of the time they are mentioned together, as if they were portrayed as a team.

Just about every subsequent astrologer during the Hellenistic and Roman period drew on or mentioned these two figures in one way or another.  Unfortunately their works did not survive into the present time, and so all we have is a handful of quotes and references from later authors.  The sheer number of these references leaves no doubt that their compendium was extremely influential though.

9. Masha’allah

Masha’allah was one of the court astrologers who worked in Baghdad in the late 8th century CE under the early Islamic Caliphate.

Electional chart for Baghdad He is notable for being one of the astrologers who were consulted in order to select an auspicious electional chart for the founding of the city of Baghdad in the year 762, when the dynasty that was in control of the Islamic Empire at the time decided to move their capital there.  See the chart to the right.

He also penned a number of very influential astrological treatises in Arabic, which were then used as primary source texts by astrologers for centuries.  He also had several students who also went on to write important astrological works of their own.

Masha’allah also seems to have written some of the earliest surviving complete texts on horary astrology in the western tradition.

8. Alan Leo

Alan Leo (1860–1917) is generally regarded as the father of modern astrology.  He is usually credited with having spurred the revival of astrology in the west in the early 20th century, after a period of decline beginning in the 17th century.

He wrote a very influential series of books and magazines, and he also pioneered the practice of selling standardized natal chart interpretations.  He also founded a number of astrological organizations, such as the Astrological Lodge of London, which still holds meetings to this day.

Part of his legacy was to simplify the technical apparatus of modern astrology in order to make it easier for students to learn, while at the same time focusing more on character analysis rather than the concrete prediction of events.  He introduced an overt spiritual or esoteric slant to astrology that wasn’t there before, as a result of his Theosophical beliefs.  His connections with the Theosophical Society allowed him to have his books translated into a number of other languages and widely circulated, which led to a revival of astrology in other European countries outside of England.

7. Vettius Valens

Vettius Valens was a Roman astrologer who wrote an important series of books in the mid-2nd century CE known at the Anthology. Valens was originally from Antioch, although later in his life he moved to Egypt and set up a school for astrologers there.

In the Anthology he drew on and quoted a number of older sources that are now lost, and he also discussed his own views about various technical and philosophical issues.  His compilation is notable for containing over 100 example charts that Valens drew from his own personal client files.  Some of the charts belong to eminent individuals, such as the emperor Nero, while others belong to everyday individuals who were alive in Valens’ time.  It has been inferred that Valens used his own chart as an example several times in his work.

His Anthology is also unique for containing a number of personal asides and anecdotes.  The books were originally written in Greek for Valens’ students, although eventually parts of the Anthology were translated into Persian sometime around the 3rd century, and then into Arabic in the 8th century.

Valens was highly regarded by some astrologers in the later Medieval tradition.  One later 10th century text has Valens being asked a horary question about the Prophet Muhammad.  Later, in the 12th century, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos wrote that the Emperor Constantine consulted Valens about an electional chart for the founding of the city of Constantinople.  Neither stories are true, since they both refer to events that took place centuries after Valens died, but they provide you with some idea of his popularity in later periods.

6. Nostradamus

NostradamusArguably the most famous astrologer on our list, Michel de Nostredame (1503–1566) was a 16th century physician who wrote under the Latin pen name Nostradamus.

He is most well-known for his book The Prophecies, which was first published in 1566.  The book contains hundreds of predictions about the future, written in the form of short, cryptic four line poems known as quatrains.  In the preface he claims to have used astrology to some extent in order to make his predictions, and some of the quatrains refer to specific time periods in the future when certain planets will be in certain signs of the zodiac.

During his lifetime Nostradamus also published a popular almanac, and in the last year of his life he introduced an innovation in the almanac format to include a prediction for each day of the year.

Although he may be the most famous astrologer on our list, Nostradamus’ effect on the astrological tradition itself is negligible, since he didn’t publish any technical works on the subject.

5. Berossus

According to legends, Berossus was an astrologer from Mesopotamia who emigrated to the west and set up a school for astrology on the Greek island of Kos sometime around the early 3rd century BCE.

Unfortunately none of Berossus’ astrological works survive, although legends about him persisted for centuries after his death, to the extent that he seems to have been regarded as one of the primary figures who transmitted Babylonian astrology to the west.  We do know the names of two of Berossus’ students, which seems to indicate the he had disciples who carried on his work after he died.

His school was founded only a century or two before the advent of horoscopic astrology in the Mediterranean, and it seems likely that Berossus’ school would have played a pivotal role in the transition between Mesopotamian and Hellenistic astrology.  It is not long after Berossus’ time that we see the introduction of the four-fold system of planets, signs, houses and aspects that became the fundamental framework of western astrology over the past 2,000 years.

4. Dane Rudhyar

Dane Rudhyar (1895–1985) is the most recent astrologer on our list, although his first and most influential book, The Astrology of Personality, was published way back in 1936.

Like Alan Leo, Rudhyar was a Theosophist, and so he brought a spiritual or New Age approach to astrology.  However, Rudhyar’s main accomplishment was the integration of certain elements of the relatively new field of depth psychology into astrology.  While Alan Leo began the process of moving astrology more towards character analysis, it is with Rudhyar that we really see the birth of psychological astrology.

Rudhyar took a particular interest in the work of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, and he was one of the first astrologers who attempted to synthesize Jung’s approach to depth psychology with his astrology.

Rudhyar’s work became very popular with the large number of astrologers who entered the field in the 1960s and ’70s, which essentially had the result of establishing his approach to astrology as one of the dominant forms of late 20th century astrology.

3. William Lilly

William LillyWilliam Lilly (1602–1681) is best known for having published the first English language manual on astrology in the year 1647, titled Christian Astrology.  Up until that time many astrological texts were still being written in Latin.

Being the first English language manual on astrology, Lilly’s work influenced generations of English-speaking astrologers over the past 300 years, and the book was reprinted several times in subsequent centuries.

Lilly’s work on horary astrology has been seen as particularly important, and in the 1980s the rediscovery of his work led to a revival of traditional astrology, and traditional style horary in particular.

In his own time Lilly was most well-known for having predicted the Great Fire of London 14 years in advance.  His prediction was so striking that he was actually accused of having set the fire himself once it occurred in 1666, although he was eventually acquitted of the charges.

2. Dorotheus of Sidon

Dorotheus of Sidon write a highly influential instructional poem on astrology in Greek sometime in the late 1st century CE. The poem was divided into 5 books, and so it was known as the Pentateuch.

Dorotheus’ influence on the later astrological tradition was enormous.  His book was translated into Persian, Arabic, and Latin, and it became the foundational text for natal and electional astrology in the Medieval period.

The fifth book of Dorotheus’ work is the oldest surviving treatment of electional astrology in the entire western astrological tradition.  Not only that, but many of the later works on electional astrology for the next 1000-1500 years were explicitly patterned after the rules contained in Dorotheus’ text, sometimes to the extent that they just copied the chapters over word for word.


And the Top Astrologer Is…


Yo Rob Hand, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but Claudius Ptolemy was one of the best astrologers of all time! OF ALL TIME!!


1. Claudius Ptolemy

By far the most towering figure on this list is Claudius Ptolemy, who was a 2nd century polymath who lived in Roman Egypt. Ptolemy wrote influential works on astronomy, geography, music, optics, and astrology.  His goal was to create a unified system that tied together all of the different scientific fields.

His eminence as an astronomer led later generations of astrologers to take his astrological work very seriously, and within a century or two of his death his textbook on astrology, usually known as the Tetrabiblos, became extremely popular.

Ptolemy’s astrological work is interesting from a historical perspective because he appears to have been a bit of a reformer, who was trying to place astrology on a more solid scientific footing by providing it with what he saw as a more consistent theoretical and technical framework.  One of the major technical changes that he was successful in advocating was the adoption of the topical zodiac, while one of the major conceptual changes that he instituted was the viewpoint which held that the planets act as causal agents which bring about what they indicate astrologically, rather than simply acting as signs or omens of future events.  Ptolemy’s naturalistic view of astrology was part of a complete cosmological package that became the dominant worldview for the next 1,000 years.

Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos is the only astrological text that was continuously transmitted and translated into different languages over the past 1,800 years since he wrote it, and for that reason he is undoubtedly the most famous and most influential astrologer of all time.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions go to Yavaneśvara, Varahamihira, Abu Ma’shar, Guido Bonatti, Marsilio Ficino, Sepharial, Marc Edmund Jones, Alfred Witte, and Reinhold Ebertin.

Let me know who you think the top astrologers of all time are in the comments section below.

36 replies on “Top 10 Astrologers of All Time”

I think you should mention that Guido Bonatti has influenced astrologers for at least 500 years…

On the other hand, good list, although I would mention Al-Biruni.

Yeah, Bonatti is one who I normally would have included, and I almost swapped him out for Nostradamus. It was a tough call.

I feel like Al-Biruni is a bit more controversial because he comes off as somewhat hostile towards astrology in his work on the subject, and I feel like his influence on later astrologers is somewhat limited compared to some of the other figures on this list. He was definitely an important person from a historical perspective, but I’m not sure that I would consider him to be one of the greatest astrologers of all time.

I’ll have a separate article for contemporaries pretty soon. There are so many, I don’t want to leave anyone out. Might be kind of a long article though…

Yes, Ptolemy was very kind to say that. That is why I had to give him the number 1 spot in this list, of course.

You need to mention Evangeline Adams. The Johnny Appleseed of Astrology here in the United States, Evangeline Adams did more to popularize Astrology – with regular mainstream magazine features, published books, Astrology booklets carried in the national chain of Woolworth’s stores, a famous radio show – than Leo or Rudhyar. Moreover Evangeline Adams stood up to police harassment and won! thereby making astrology legal here in the US. Finally – and with all due respect, this list is male centric. Many women have contributed to Astrology over the years and they deserve to be recognized. Honoring Evangeline Adams would do a lot to correct that oversight. With that in mind I suggest bumping Nostradamus – who was better known for prophesying than he was for horoscopic astrology – and putting Evangeline Adams there in his stead.

Surely an impossible task.

Rudhyar was/is very influential in USA, less so in Europe.

What about Ficino?

In your top ten are any of these thinkers ideas worth paying much attention to in 2012. Lilly maybe, although his current press spans the genius to fraud or tosser spectrum.

@Christopher Renstrom: I thought about mentioning Evangeline Adams, although the relatively recent revelation that her main book was ghostwritten by Aleister Crowley made me unsure of what her broader worldwide effect was on the astrological tradition outside of the United States – or at least how much could be attributed to her. All of the people on this list had an effect on the tradition that extended beyond their own borders, but Adam’s effect is somewhat limited if that book is not taken into account.

Additionally, I’m aware of the lack of women on this list, and actually did put some serious thought into altering it in order to try to include some women, but ultimately I decided to make the list historically accurate rather than swapping out some highly influential astrologers for the sake of gender equality.

Unfortunately this list is male centric because the field of astrology was male centric until very recently. That is true of other fields as well though. It is only recently, in the past century or so, that there are any female astrologers on the historical timeline who are both recorded as being great astrologers, and who produced books that are recognized as having had a major impact on the astrological tradition.

Now, yes, of course there were female astrologers before that time. I could have mentioned Hypatia or Buran of Baghdad, as they are woman who are known to have practiced astrology. As far as we know though, their impact on the astrological tradition was not as significant as the other people on this list though. Certainly a list that was restricted to important 20th century astrologers would have more women on it though.

@Pedro: Rudhyar may still have had an indirect impact on Europe due to the influence that he had on many of the psychological astrologers who began their practices in the ’60s and ’70s and drew on him heavily. I’m thinking of people like Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas for example, who went on found the Centre for Psychological Astrology in the UK.

Ficino was definitely a major historical figure, although it is unclear to me how significant his impact was on the astrological tradition. It seems like he is one of those people who is more popular with astrologers now than he was in late traditional astrology, because modern astrologers see some of their own views in him. He does deserve an honorable mention though, so I will add that.

Yes, all of them have ideas that are worth paying attention to. I can’t think of a single person on this list who doesn’t have something useful to offer in one area or another. The only one who might not is Berossus, but that is because pretty much nothing of his work survives.

You may be grossly over estimating this impact. Greene’s view of Theosophy is similar to Jung’s who regarded it as useless nonsense. This reminds me of Nick Campion’s suggestion that the most significant 20th century ‘Astrologer’ in the 20th Century was Jung. As well as the use of some of his ideas by Psychological Astrologers there is his ‘legitimising’ a form of Divinatory Astrology which emerged more recently. Maggie Hyde, Geoffrey Cornelius, Patrick Curry, etc.

By paying attention to, I was thinking more so if you encountered an intellectually average 18 year old in 2012 with an emergent interest in understanding their own horoscope would you recommend any of these 10 authors to them. Doubtless essential reading if you wish to understand the History of Western Astrology but is there any practical utility for their ideas nowadays.

It is not the Theosophy that is important, it is the grafting of Jungian style depth psychology onto astrology that is important, and that does seem to have begun with Rudhyar.

Yes, there is practical utility in studying the ideas and the techniques of older astrologers. The belief that there is not is a conceit that some modern astrologers have, but thankfully that notion has been dying out rather quickly over the past 10 to 20 years. Apparently it is still alive in some quarters though…

For the purpose of this list, yes. ‘Top 10 Dead Astrologers’ doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it though.

Grafting is an odd choice of word. Jung noticed similarities in the ideas of some astrologers to observations he had about the ‘psychic’ behaviour of his clients. Some astrologers noticed similarities with his model of the psyche to the planetary meanings. I suppose we could say Lilly grafted Christianity, Valens Stoicism and Leo Theosophy onto or into the belief.

I was pointing out the irony that even though Rudhyar was influenced by Jung, Psychological Astrologers who are even more influenced by him have little time for many of his ideas often referring to them, sometimes scathingly, as New Age. There are some astrologers who seek to merge Theosophical conceptions with Psycho-dynamic ones. Erin Sullivan’s approach is an example of this.

Absolutely these texts should be studied. I think the challenge is if and when we encounter an idea which still appears valid we find a way of making it appear sensible and meaningful to the modern mind or world. Robert Hand, Liz Greene and others, as you may know, have frequently made this point.

I agree there are some people who think if these older systems / ideas were so useful they may not have almost disappeared from view, but we know now this was only part of the reason. I would suggest clueless more than conceited. In this Internet Age with so much research online there is no excuse for this laziness and ignorance.

I am looking forward to the next list. Linda Goodman must be No 1. $2.3 million for the paperback rights!

Chris, this was a great article, and it gave me the idea of looking up as many of them as I could find and creating a board “Famous Astrologers” in my Pinterest account. You might want to have a look and set me straight if I’ve made any obvious errors.

A couple of them I absolutely could not find, and I confess I did take artistic license with Berossus. I hadn’t read through all your reader comments before I did this but may add a few more names as time goes by based on collective input and my own thoughts.

In the meantime, here’s the link to my board, and feel free to share it with your readers:

– Alan

The prophet Daniel from the Bible — responsible for secondary progressions (a day is as a year in the sight of the Lord)

plus probably left the gates of Babylon open for Cyrus’ armies thus effectuating the transfer of Babylonian astrology to the Persian Magian hegemony — consider first natal chart 400 bc — pre Hellenistic — Daniel appointed Chief Magus because he taught the Persian Magi the Babylonian arts

Important initial step in transmission of Babylonian astrology to the post Alexandrian, Hellenistic world.

Dear Chris, I am your new student from Barcelona, Spain. I am very fascinated by the Nechepso and Petosiris…I wish I was there at that time….Nice articles…I like it.

Your student,


Good list and thanks for sharing this topic! I want to suggest for the Top 20 Parasara for is Hora Sastra, Morin de Villefranche for his systematic studies of house interpretation and Wolfgang Doebereiner for his works on astrological homeopathy.
Best Wishes

Hey Chris: I’m still in disagreement with your decision regarding Evangeline Adams and for a couple of reasons. Even if Crowley “ghost wrote” for her – Evangeline Adams generated much more material than what appears in Astrology Your Place in the Sun and Astrology Your Place in the Stars. In fact Bowl of Heaven was the best-selling book which she wrote. Moreover when you compare her early astrological type written reports – I have one dating from about 1915 – there is a consistency of prose and ideas that appears throughout her magazine articles, her booklets, and her newspaper columns. These cannot be attributed to Aleister Crowley nor should they be. Moreover if you apply your argument about borrowing ideas – then where would Dane Rudhyar be without Carl Jung? And Dane Rudhyar also did his fair share of lifting as well. A lot of John Hazelrigg appears in Rudhyar’s work – sometimes word for word. Can you prove that every word of Ptolemy is Ptolemy? Or that every word of Nostradamus is Nostradamus? Or even Alan Leo for that matter who also employed writers? Evangeline Adams popularized the practice of Astrology here in America that she learned from J Heber Smith. It had a strong basis in health as well as in one’s psychological character. This is what made her astrology appealing to the American public. It’s why you or I or anyone else who practices Astrology in America even knows about Astrology in the first place. This down-to-earth, simple prose writing does not appear in Crowley’s other occult works. My feeling is that his “ghost writing” is overrated and requires further investigation. As always, Crowley is riding on Adams’s coattails and not the other way around.

I am rather disappointed that the emphasis is so heavily weighted on Western astrologers, to be truthful. There is virtually no reference (apart from honorable mentions) of the great astrologers in the Indian tradition. Just in terms of sheer numbers of people influenced, the Indian and Chinese traditions merit more credit than indicated. Even if one accepts the still unproven assertion that Indian astrology originated in the Hellenistic tradition, it ignores the role that Indian astrology had on the renaissance of Western astrology through its influence on Western practitioners like Alan Leo and Sephariel. Varhamihira should have been on the main list, as should have more contemporary astrologers, such as B.V. Raman. If we are talking about the length of influence, Varahamihira’s works have endured and influenced astrologers for about 1600 years, barely less than the amount of time attributed to Ptolemy. Also, Indian astrology’s influence was not confined to India, being brought to Europe through the middle Eastern astrologers between 800 and 1100 CE.

Gary, as I said in the introduction: “I’m going to focus primarily on the western astrological tradition here, since I’m not familiar enough with the history of Indian astrology to rank astrologers from that tradition yet. At some point I will try to compile a list for that tradition though.”

Alan Leo? I would have said that Alan Leo did more damage to astrology than any one else. He popularized it, yes, but he also stripped out its complications, and created the view that character analysis was everything – ‘character is destiny’. So if you’re going to put Alan Leo in the top 10, you might as well put R.H. Naylor there, because he wrote the first sun sign column. Though at least Naylor got his column on the back of predicting the R101 airship disaster.

In terms of the Twentieth Century, you surely have to mention either Reinhold Ebertin or Alfred Witte? Midpoints, as used by Ebertin and Witte, were a genuine innovation, which in the right hands can be very powerful. I would have said that Witte was more important than Ebertin, because he was the real innovator, even if some people can’t handle his hypothetical planets.

I also think a possible candidate for top-10 inclusion might be Olivia Barclay. Opinions differ, but it was Olivia Barclay who initiated the revival in traditional astrology, that started in the early and mid-1980s. She went a long way towards stopping the psychological rot; remember, there was a time in the 1980s when Chiron was suggested as a possible ruler of Sagittarius, things were that bad. Olivia Barclay might not have been a classical scholar, but she was persistent and dedicated – she believed she had a mission, and others followed her lead.

Is Partridge a dirty word among the astrological establishment these days?

The best rules are selected from the works of Ptolemy, Placidus, Partridge,*

* The latter is generally allowed to have been the most acute and scientific Author that ever wrote in the English language on this subject.


Partridge is cool. There are only so many astrologers one can fit on a top 10 list though, and I think that Lilly edges him out in terms of overall influence.

Well he was on the same side. Fascinating period in the history of astrology. Astrology was a victim of circumstance really, infighting because of religion and politics, public insults in writings, tradition versus scientific method. Then the attacks of non astrologers, and the Papist Tories that took down Partridge, and astrology.

But then we wouldn’t be experiencing this resurgence via the internet and free information, which really was started in those dangerous times when all those strong personalities came together at the same place at time.

That was the time that astrology came to the masses with English transitions. Very radical back then. Almanacs, leaflets, now blogs and ebooks.

Still working through my William Lilly Bookshelf.

re: Nostradamus. you write
“Although he may be the most famous astrologer on our list, Nostradamus’ effect on the astrological tradition itself is negligible, since he didn’t publish any technical works on the subject.”

i dont think you actually meant that.
Because Nostradamus took astrology to the highest place ever. a place that no one ever could match or has matched since.
N. was perhaps the most brilliant human being alive in the world during his lifetime.
i see him as a world class being. and a world class teacher.
as such its not possible really for the average person or the average astrologer to ever get to the place of his consciousness.
it doesn’t matter if he didn’t leave behind instruction manuals.
Nostradamus’s astrological wisdom and influence is way beyond books.
His wisdom resides in the collective supra consciousness and hr continues to inspire many, many people all over the world to this day and will do so for a long while to come.

Good idea Jenn! I would probably have to focus on the past century though, and a lot of the most influential female astrologers that come to mind are still alive. I will have to think about the best way to go about putting together a list like that.

We could start with Christine de Pizan. Her dates are 1365-1430. Her father was a court astrologer to the French King Charles V and though she didn’t write an astrological work per se astrology certainly influenced her writing. In her book The Epistle of Othea to Hector she talks about the planets and how each planet ruled a day of the week. She also describes what attributes of the planet would make for a “good knight” in which this epistle reads as a kind of manual. Christine de Pizan was the first published female author in the history of Europe to make a living as a writer. Her most famous book is The Book of the City of Ladies. As for the past century, I would like to see Evangeline Adams, Catherine Thompson, Estelle Gardiner, Belle Bart, and Linda Goodman on that list. All of these women were very influential and some of them have disappeared into obscurity. Estelle Gardiner in particular.