An Exposition of the Scientific Astrology Movement, 1890-1939

Full, unabridged version of the lecture delivered for the Fifth European Astrology Conference on December 17th 2023, by Philip Graves


This paper will examine the drive of astrologers active from 1890 to the eve of the second world war to re-establish astrology on a more scientific footing, through a combination of empirical research, rational thinking, and attempts to improve the public image of the discipline. Among the developments explored will be the reform of astrological aspect theory, pioneering statistical research experiments, the integration of modern notions of psychological types, adaptations to the anticipated and real discoveries of new solar system bodies, and the organisation of astrologers around collectively approved codes of practice.



The period from 1890 to 1939 was one of significant growth and proliferation in the literature, study, practice and community organisation of western astrology. This manifest in numerous countries across North America and Western Europe, including the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Although there was also a significant presence of technically simplified forms of popular astrology aimed at the mass public during this period, an abundance of serious astrological writing and research emerged. While diverse astrological philosophies coexisted in the period, including traditional astrology and esoteric theosophical astrology, there was also a marked prevalence of the language and literature of so-called ‘scientific astrology’. It is this phenomenon that is the focus of this paper.

In a previous study[1], I identified five groups of English, French and German-language keywords in use in the titles of astrological publications of the period that are indicative of a scientific orientation, as follows:

  • Group 1: science, scientific, scientifique(s), Wissenschaft[2], wissenschaftliche(n)[3], naturwissenschaftlich(e)[4], Erfahrungswissenschaft[5], Geheimwissenschaft[6], etc.
  • Group 2: research, recherche(s)[7], Forschung[8], Forschungsergebnisse[9], etc.
  • Group 3: physics, physique[10], Physik[11], astrophysics, astrophysical, astrophysique, astrophysikalisch(e)[12]
  • Group 4: Experiment(al), expériment(al)[13], expérimentation(s)[14]
  • Group 5: statistics, statistical, statistique(s)[15], Statistik[16], statistisch[17]

A chronological analysis of astrological book titles and the extended titles of astrological magazines identified a modern emergence of the first group of terms in the 1880s, their relative growth in the 1890s and 1900s, and their proliferation in large numbers of publications from the 1910s to the 1930s. The other four groups took off later, chiefly from the 1910s onwards, as the language of scientific astrology became more specific in its topical foci.

In practice, ‘scientific astrology’ meant different things to different astrologers. For some, declaring themselves to be ‘scientific astrologers’ in their own advertising matter was little more than a way to mark themselves out as astrologers who practised astrology at a high technical level and closely followed its traditional rules, in distinction from lower-level fortune-tellers who lacked a deep knowledge of the techniques of astrology. We need only to look at advertisements for the services of practising American astrologers at the turn of the 20th century to find examples of this.

There was also in some cases a legal motivation to this appellation at a time when fortune-tellers were widely prosecuted. By calling themselves scientific astrologers, practising astrologers hoped to avoid conviction on fortune-telling charges by drawing attention to their strict following of mathematical methods and techniques based on astronomy.

The subscribing of professional astrologers to ethical codes of practice overseen by astrological organisations was another development designed to improve the reputation and legal standing of competent and conscientious astrologers and to distinguish them from unethical charlatans.

But in some quarters, there was much more to the meaning of ‘scientific astrology’ than this. There was an abiding sense in a time dominated by the spirit of scientific modernity that astrology needed to be reformed and modernised along scientific lines in order to earn and regain the respect it had widely enjoyed centuries previously.

We find several examples in the time period of astrologers hypothesising scientific mechanisms for astrological influence, for example the postulation of astrological causation via electromagnetic radiation. These hypotheses attempt to meet science on its own turf, and go far beyond traditional adages of ‘as above, so below’, and received beliefs in the mirroring of the celestial sphere in the terrestrial one by divine design.

We also find attempts to reform astrological techniques such as the doctrine of interplanetary aspects along scientifically open-minded lines that part company with astrological tradition, attempts to address the age-old question of whether the tropical or sidereal zodiac is more scientifically accurate, endeavours to incorporate modern psychological typology into the astrological reading of character, and numerous examples of statistical astrological research emerging from the 1900s onwards.

It is alas too vast a topic to cover exhaustively within an hour. So in this paper, while touching on some of the other aforementioned themes as they incidentally occur in the historical timeline, we shall look in depth at three themes: astrologers’ adaptations to new celestial bodies, the reform of astrological aspect theory, and pioneering statistical research. We shall also briefly summarise developments in the organisation of astrologers that helped to facilitate their co-operation on new research and improve the scientific image of their work.


Adaptations to New and Anticipated Discoveries of Solar System Bodies

The successive discoveries of Uranus, the first five asteroids and Neptune between 1781 and 1846 had opened both astronomers’ and astrologers’ eyes to the fact that the classically known planets were not the only celestial bodies regularly orbiting the Sun in our solar system.

Many more asteroids were discovered from 1847 onwards, with the fourth largest, Hygeia, being found in 1849. By the end of 1889, 287 asteroids had been found, including 129 with a diameter of at least 100 km and 23 with a diameter of at least 200 km.

Faced with these new discoveries, astrologers had been seeking to varying degrees to integrate them into astrological study and interpretation, with Uranus having been prioritised in the early-to-mid-19th century before the discovery of Neptune, which had itself become the subject of published astrological exploration by the end of the 1880s.

Yet, these new planets threatened to upend the seeming perfection of the traditional system of domicile dignity that had been established in the knowledge of only the two luminaries and five classically known extra-terrestrial planets. Sceptics had a field day at the expense of astrologers in the early 19th century, attacking their traditional practice of astrology on the grounds of it having been carried out in ignorance of the existence of some planets that surely, they argued, must have had an influence too if the known ones, as astrologers had always claimed, did so.

And what were astrologers to do with the vast numbers of asteroids now known to orbit between Mars and Jupiter? Some authors had begun to tentatively advocate the experimental use of the earliest four discovered, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta, all of which were found between 1801 and 1807, following which there was a 38-year gap before the fifth was found in 1845. But uptake of the asteroids by astrologers of the 19th century was very limited in practice, far more so than for Uranus, whose usage had gained a significant foothold by the mid-1820s.

The discovery of Neptune and the continuing discoveries of asteroids from the 1840s onwards had also engendered considerable speculation among both astronomers and astrologers upon the impending prospect of further solar system discoveries. As early as 1848, one astronomer, Jacques Babinet, had argued based on the mass and orbital elements of Neptune for the existence of a planet orbiting beyond Neptune. Around 1880, another astronomer, George Forbes, had argued based on the orbital paths of ten comets for the existence of two trans-Neptunian planets.

By 1897, some astrologers had begun to presume the reality of at least one hypothesised planet beyond the orbit of Neptune. In his book Manuel d’Astrologie Sphérique et Judiciaire, the Abbé Niccollaud, writing under his pen-name of Fomalhaut, confidently declared, with the air of one who had experienced a persuasive visionary insight:

La planète au-delà de Neptune existe, elle se nomme Pluton….[18]

This translates as ‘The planet beyond Neptune exists; it is called Pluto’.

Leaving aside the vexed question of whether Nicollaud’s prediction of Pluto’s name was a lucky educated guess, a clairvoyant revelation or an influential self-fulfilling prophecy, we can see from his example that at least some astrologers in the 1890s were eager to keep up to date with astronomical discoveries and adapt their theory and practice of astrology to them. These were hallmarks of a scientific approach to astrology.

And Nicollaud did not hesitate to seek to adapt the traditional assignations of planetary domicile to incorporate not only Uranus and Neptune but also the as-yet-undiscovered Pluto. Instead of assigning two signs to each classical planet, he granted only one to each, limiting Venus to Taurus while granting Libra to the asteroids, limiting Mars to Scorpio while granting Aries to Pluto, limiting Jupiter to Sagittarius while granting Pisces to Neptune, limiting Saturn to Aquarius while somewhat eccentrically granting Capricorn to Uranus, and limiting Mercury to Virgo while granting Gemini to the hypothetical planet Vulcan, which had long been postulated by astronomers as orbiting the Sun closer than Mercury. Thus he sought to replace the perfect seven-planet system of domicile dignity with an equally perfect twelve-planet one.

In granting all the asteroids to Libra, Nicollaud argued that astronomers theorised that the asteroids collectively were fragments of a previously whole planet he calls Junon. This astronomical theory has since been discredited.

Similarly, the existence of a planet called Vulcan within the orbit of Mercury was widely anticipated by astronomers from the mid-19th century onwards, so it was understandable for Nicollaud and other astrological reformers to seek to incorporate Vulcan into their domicile schemes, based on their trust in astronomers being correct in anticipating its discovery. But in this case, astronomers have since been proven wrong by the failure of much higher-powered modern telescopes to find any evidence for the existence of Vulcan. Vulcan has been shown to be nothing more than an astronomical chimera, and so the bona fide incorporation of Vulcan into the scheme of domicile dignities by modern scientific astrologers has been demonstrated by the overwhelming weight of recent astronomical evidence to have been an honest mistake.

Yet, Pluto and Vulcan were not the only hypothetical solar system bodies anticipated by astrologers in the period from 1890 to 1939.

Since the early 17th century, a number of different astronomers had excitedly reported the transit of unknown celestial bodies in front of the disc of the Sun, leading to speculation on the existence of a smaller second satellite to the Earth that was much harder to see than the Moon, perhaps owing to a combination of very low reflectivity of light and small size.

These speculations reached fever pitch in 1898 when the astronomer Georges Waltemath attempted to collate together all such reported sightings since 1618 and deduce the orbital elements of the Earth’s hypothetical second satellite from these data. His proposed orbital elements were formally published in a popular scientific journal called English Mechanic on 11th February, 1898.

News of this claimed discovery rapidly became an international press sensation, and had also soon become subject matter for columns in the specialist astrological press, including the British monthly magazines Modern Astrology and Coming Events. In the April, 1898 issue of Coming Events, its then-serving editor Walter Gorn Old, writing under his accustomed pen-name of Sepharial, commented credulously on Dr. Waltemath’s paper, proposing the name Lilith and an associated glyph. This was another example of a modern astrologer seeking to adapt astrology to emerging astronomical discoveries, although in this case, as with Fomalhaut’s adoption of Vulcan, it has been shown in the fullness of time to have been based on misplaced trust in astronomers’ claimed discoveries before they were scientifically proven.

As with Vulcan, there is now an overwhelming body of astronomical evidence counting against the existence of Lilith. And yet, Sepharial’s popularisation of Waltemath’s claimed discovery continued to meet with a receptive audience among students and practitioners of western astrology well into the late 20th century, by which time the hypothetical satellite had come to be referred to as Dark Moon Lilith, to distinguish it from two other astrological uses of the name Lilith that had since emerged.

In the early 20th century, several other astrologers, including Sepharial, Isabelle Pagan, A. E. Thierens, A. M. Wrey and Eugène Caslant, all threw their weight behind Fomalhaut’s seemingly uncanny correct prediction of the first trans-Neptunian object’s discovery and name, adding their voices to his in anticipating the discovery of a planet specifically called Pluto. Most of them gave varying theoretical and practical reasons for assessing it as being domiciled in either Aries or Scorpio; but Sepharial, writing in The Science of Foreknowledge (1918), maintained that it would be impossible to know which of the two signs was Pluto’s domicile until after its discovery, and that in the meantime, it would be preferable for astrologers to devote more time to studying the influence of Neptune. In adopting this position, he was arguably favouring an empirically based assessment of Pluto’s characteristics rather than one based on any theoretical assumptions. This empirical stand bore the hallmarks of a modern scientific approach to astrology.

An outlying voice was Scottish astrologer Duncan Macnaughton, who is better-known by his pen name of Maurice Wemyss. As early as September 1919, he was speculating within the pages of Modern Astrology magazine on the existence of a planet called Circe, which he declared to be the ruler of Aquarius, and whose geocentric positions he had estimated after the examination of ‘a large number of horoscopes’.[19] He later abandoned the name and domicile attribution of Circe; but writing in the first volume of his five-volume work The Wheel of Life, or Scientific Astrology (1927), Macnaughton proposed no fewer than four hypothetical planets, which he called Pluto, Hercules, Dido and Jason. Similarly to Nicollaud, Macnaughton sought to integrate these into a revised system of planetary domicile, but his revision was more radical, as he deprived the Sun and Moon of their dignities altogether, then granted Cancer to Pluto, Leo to Hercules, Virgo to Dido and Sagittarius to Jason. His domicile system differed from that of Nicollaud in other details too, as he assigned Pisces to the asteroids, Libra to Neptune, Scorpio to Uranus and Aquarius to Jupiter. It was a decidedly eccentric scheme altogether; and even by contemporary standards of modernity, Macnaughton had veered out a step too far from tradition for the liking of many of his contemporaries, some of whom openly poured scorn on the liberties he took with his innovations.

When Pluto was finally discovered by the astronomer Percival Lowell in 1930, astrologers moved into overdrive to address the question of the influence and domicile rulership of the new planet. Whereas the previous discoveries of Uranus and Neptune had each heralded a decades-long period of cautious study prior to their integration into astrological practice, the long-awaited discovery of Pluto excited many astrologers into adopting it much more immediately.

Several astrologers reasoned from the associations of its name in ancient mythology to propose a domicile for Pluto as early as 1930 and 1931. This approach arguably owes far more to the pervasive influence of theosophy in the astrological culture of the time than it does to that of the modern scientific method. Reasoning as to the astrological influence of newly discovered celestial bodies on the basis of their names alone requires a form of magical thinking whereby the chosen name is a sign of the astrological nature of the body and was not chosen purely by chance by an astronomer.

Llewellyn George was perhaps the first astrologer to reason after its discovery that Pluto should rule Scorpio, in a long article penned in his then-quarterly magazine The Astrological Bulletina, No. 187, July-August-September 1930 (pp. 83-8). There were dissenting voices, with one lesser-known astrologer arguing for Pluto’s rulership of Leo, Charles Carter equivocating between Scorpio and Cancer, and the American astrologer Carl Payne Tobey later echoing Fomalhaut in arguing for Aries; but most astrologers writing from 1930 onwards concurred with George’s position that Scorpio should be the domicile of Pluto, and this became the standard position of modern western astrologers, notwithstanding a later backlash from traditional astrologers against the disruption of the traditional system of domiciles.

As for Macnaughton, he denied on the basis of its revealed orbital characteristics that Pluto was the same Pluto he had written about in 1927, and continued to hold fast to his belief in the eventual discovery of a different Pluto, to which he referred thereafter as Wemyss-Pluto, in distinction from what he dismissed as Lowell-Pluto. It would seem that his pride was too piqued for him to admit that Lowell’s planet was the one and only real Pluto.

Yet Macnaughton was not the only or even the first astrologer to depart from the ranks of his contemporaries in claiming to have experimentally deduced the discovery of multiple hypothetical planets that astronomers themselves had not even postulated to exist. In Germany, as early as July 1923, Alfred Witte had had published in the magazine Astrologische Blätter his first known article on Cupido, the first of his own hypothetical planets.

By the time of the publication of the first edition of his interpretative astrological manual Regelwerk für Planetenbilder in 1928, Witte had introduced three further hypothetical planets, which he had named Hades, Zeus and Kronos. The experimental rationale for his claimed discoveries of and orbital calculations for all four of his Transneptunians is summarised on p. 27, under the heading Wie Alfred Witte zu den Transneptun-Planeten kam. This explains how he observed places in the horoscope from which energies of a certain character consistently emanated, without angles, known planets or other conventionally understood astrological factors being present to account for them. His subsequent investigations led him to believe that these were slowly moving points whose motion was consistent with the behaviour that would be expected from unknown planets beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Witte therefore incorporated these four hypothetical planets into the Hamburg School, a modern, scientifically and rationally-oriented system of astrology that he had developed together with his German colleagues Ludwig Rudolph and Friedrich Sieggrün. Sieggrün would go on to add four further hypothetical planets to the Hamburg School system, naming them Apollon, Admetos, Vulcanus and Poseidon. Although the first three of these had been introduced by the time of the second edition of Witte’s Regelwerk in 1932, they were rejected by Witte himself and editorially excluded from both the second edition and the third of 1935, and would appear only in the posthumous revisions of Witte’s Regelwerk, starting with the fourth edition, which was serially published in 1947, six years after Witte’s own death by suicide in August 1941.


The Reform of Astrological Aspect Theory

The theory of how to calculate astrological aspects, or angular relationships between factors in an astrological chart that cause them to directly interact with each other, had already begun to change on multiple levels before 1890. The most basic level had to do with the range of angular relationships that qualify as aspects at all.

Traditionally, only sextiles, trines, squares and oppositions had been thought of as aspects, while conjunctions and parallels of declination had been formally classed as familiarities or configurations, although for all practical purposes, they were treated as aspects too.

In 1602, however, Johannes Kepler’s brief Latin treatise De Fundamentis Astrologiae Certioribus argued a theoretical case, from the starting point of intervals on the conventional musical scale that generate harmonic chords, for the extension of the repertoire of aspects to include also the quintile (72°), associated with a major third, the biquintile (144°), associated with a major sixth, and the sesquiquartile or trioctile (135°), associated with a minor sixth.

In 1619, Kepler proposed five further new aspects in his major work Harmonices Mundi, Book IV, Chapters V-VI. These comprised the semi-sextile (30°), the quincunx (150°), the octile or semi-quartile (45°), the decile (36°) and the tridecile (108°).

His eight new introductions upended traditional aspect methodology and were known to astrologers after Kepler’s time, and throughout the nineteenth century, who often referred to them in their textbooks as ‘the new aspects’ or ‘aspects introduced by Kepler’. A famous example is William Lilly’s 1647 work Christian Astrology, which introduces all eight aspects invented by Kepler as ‘new aspects’. They eventually became referred to as harmonic aspects, in distinction from the traditional Ptolemaic aspects.

Kepler did not stop there. Changing his rationale for harmonic aspects from musical chords to even geometrical divisions of the 360° ecliptical circle, he proposed eight additional so-called ‘borderline’ aspects derived from the 15-fold and 20-fold divisions of the circle, thus based on multiples of base aspects of 24° (the quindecile) and 18° (the vigintile).

A second way in which astrological aspect theory had already begun to be reformed by 1890 was centred upon the method for calculating the allowable deviation from exactness in the degrees of separation qualifying as forming aspects. Astrologers had already begun to move on from the traditional calculation of aspect orbs based on the moieties or half-sums of orbs differentially accorded to the different planets involved in each aspect.

A representative example of this traditional methodology is given in Al-Biruni’s 11th-century Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, in which the Sun’s orb is given as 15°, the Moon’s as 12°30’, those of Jupiter and Saturn as 9°, that of Mars as 8°, and those of Mercury and Venus as 7°. According to traditional aspect calculation methods, a trine from the Moon to Venus would be allowed an orb based on half the Moon’s orb added to half that of Venus, so half of 12°30’ = 6°15’, and half of 7° = 3°30’, for a total of 9°45’, while a square from Mars to Saturn would be allowed an orb based on half Mars’s orb added to half that of Saturn, so half of 8° = 4°, and half of 9° = 4°30’, for a total of 8°30’.

In 1861, however, prominent British astrologer Richard Morrison, who wrote under the pen-name of Zadkiel, argued in his Hand-Book of Astrology Vol. I that:

The perfect aspects are the most powerful; but they are found to operate generally when within about 5° to 7°; and, as regards the Sun or Moon, when within 10°.

Morrison was not distinguishing between the orbs allocated to the Sun and Moon, and nor was he distinguishing between the orbs allowed for any of the planets. By his reckoning, any interplanetary aspect not involving one of the luminaries was only valid within 5-7°, while any aspect involving either one or both of the luminaries was only valid within 10°.

A key observation here lies in Morrison’s choice of words ‘they are found to operate generally’. This suggests that his statement is based on his practical experience as an astrologer rather than on an arbitrary desire to simplify traditional rules. Empiricism is a cornerstone of the modern scientific method.

This single statement of Morrison’s set the tone for typical practice in the 1890s, and continuing practice throughout most of the twentieth century. Some astrologers of the 1890s were stricter even than Morrison. American astrologer W. H. Chaney, writing in his Primer of Astrology and American Urania in 1890, expressly limited his allowed orb for aspects to 5° across the board.[20] That same year, a note by the editors of The Astrologers’ Magazine, Alan Leo and Frederick Lacey, in the inaugural issue of August 1890, declared their disagreement with traditional planetary orbs and their limiting of orbs to 5°, exactly the same figure as given just months earlier by Chaney, and at the lower end of Morrison’s previously advocated range.

In later 20th-century texts, we often see a slightly wider of allowance of 8°, rather than 5-7°, for aspects not involving the Sun or Moon, but an extra orb allowance is still sometimes advocated for aspects to the luminaries.

This new, uniform distribution of aspect orbs for all aspects except those involving the luminaries was only deemed applicable to traditional Ptolemaic aspects, however.

Kepler had himself divided the different types of aspects into several groups according to how influential he thought they were. He considered the conjunction and opposition to exert the strongest influence, with the quartile or square second-ranked; the trine, sextile and semi-sextile third-ranked; the quintile, biquintile and quincunx fourth-ranked; and the decile, tridecile, octile and trioctile together ranking as the least influential group of aspects, aside from the ‘borderline’ aspects, which he declared to be ‘on the borderline between influential and non-influential’.

This differentiation of the level of influence of aspects of different classes paved the way for astrologers of the late 19th century and beyond arguing that more minor aspects should be accorded lesser orbs than more major ones.

Alfred Pearce, writing in his magazine The Future, Vol. I No. VII, August, 1892, argued that major aspects not involving the luminaries should be limited to 5°, and minor ones to 2°, while for aspects taking in either the Sun or the Moon, these allowances should be increased to 10° for major aspects and 5° for minor aspects.

Other astrologers had even begun to differentiate the orbs allowed to different types of traditional Ptolemaic aspects, creating a continuum of orb reduction by aspect type instead of simply a two-way split between Ptolemaic and harmonic aspects. An influential voice in this regard was that of H. S. Green, writing in The Astrologer’s Magazine in March 1892 (pp. 464-5):

The strongest aspects are undoubtedly the conjunction and opposition… but the margin of distance must be diminished for all the other aspects according to their strength. For the square and trine, I would allow about three-quarters of the usual orb. For the sextile, semi-square, and sesquiquadrate, I would allow from one-half to two-thirds the orb. The remaining aspects, semi-sextile, quintile, bi-quintile, and those others which are doubtful, I think, have no influence unless they are within one degree of being exact. Some such arrangement as this appears to be more in accordance with reason than the rule of allowing a fixed orb, long or short, for every aspect, whether strong or weak, indifferently.

The details of Green’s groupings differed from those of Kepler but were arguably more rational, and are fairly close to mainstream 20th-century practice. Modern astrologers would take serious issue with Kepler’s grouping of the semi-sextile together with the sextile and trine; and it is usually found, as advocated by Green, that the semi-sextile is allowed a much smaller orb than the sextile and trine by modern astrologers, typically no more than 2-3 degrees. Harmonic astrological theory of the later 20th century would also agree with Green granting the sextile a lesser orb than the trine, because it is based on a more complex circle division factor.

Starting in the 19th century, more experimentally-minded astrologers would begin to add further new aspects under the collective banner of harmonic aspects, taking as their rationale Kepler’s later geometrically based definition of harmonic aspects.

Before the 20th century, however, very few astrologers were on board with this or even with Kepler’s aspects. Moderniser James Wilson, writing in his Dictionary of Astrology (1819), listed Kepler’s new aspects, including examples of his ‘borderline’ ones, but cast doubt upon their validity, declaring, in a show of his modern scientific empirical philosophy:

As to the new aspects invented by Kepler, I own, I have not so much confidence in their efficacy as that astronomer had, but experience alone can decide this question.[21]

As late as 1890, Chaney also expressed scepticism towards Kepler’s new aspects, satirically declaring (Primer of Astrology and American Urania Part 2, pp. 59-61):

It is recorded that Kepler “discovered” some new aspects, such as the Semi-sextile, Semi-quartile, Quintile, Sesqui-quartile, Biquintile, etc.. The door of discovery being thus thrown open, every fakir in the science has sought distinction by discovering other aspects. But why some smart Aleck has not discovered a Semi-quincunx before this time is very strange, for it would be as scientific as its name is poetical.

As for Alan Leo and Frederick Lacey, they stated in no uncertain terms regarding ‘the other aspects, said to be invented by Kepler’, that ‘we disregard every one of them’[22].

Morrison was the first major astrologer to go beyond Kepler’s new aspects and propose an additional class of harmonic aspects that Kepler had not considered. In his Grammar of Astrology (1833), Morrison argued that an aspect of 40° should be considered. This was the root aspect of the ninth harmonic, and would later be referred to variously in the 20th-century astrological literature as the nonagon or novile. Pioneering German astrologer Karl Brandler-Pracht first lists the nonagon as a very weak benefic aspect in his 1910 book Kleines Astrologisches Lehrbuch.

The next mould-breaker after Morrison was George Wilde. Of Kepler’s ‘borderline’ aspect series, Wilde fully adopts the 20th-harmonic series based on the vigintile (18°) although not the 15th-harmonic series based on the quindecile (24°). However, by the third edition of his Primer of Astrology (1911), Wilde has introduced two new series of aspects that Kepler had entirely disregarded: firstly, the 7th-harmonic series, whose base aspect is the septile of 51.43°; and secondly, the 16th-harmonic series, whose base aspect of 22°30’ Wilde calls the semi-demi-quartile, and whose other aspects he says were calculated by one of his students, Mr. W. Kruse.

Wilde had already implicitly proposed these series in the rare undated first edition of his Primer, believed from contemporaneous advertising to have been published by 1908; but at that stage, he did not name the septile or even state what it was based on, merely opining that ‘the planets appear to be influential at 52°’. Already in the first edition, he judged the 16th-harmonic base aspect, which at that stage he rounded up to 22°, to be ‘influentially adverse’ (p. 5), a position he reiterates with respect to the 16th-harmonic series as a whole in the 1911 edition. This judgement accords with astrologers’ traditional evaluations of the quartile and octile series, which are geometrically closely related to the 16th-harmonic aspects by virtue of the ecliptical circle being divided by multiples of the prime number 2 to form them.

But it is not before the 1930s that we first see significant movement towards an attempt to systematically account for the astrological qualities of different series of aspects with respect to the prime numbers by which the circle is divided to form them. This comes from the pen of Charles Carter, who reasons from numerology in the first edition (1930) of his book The Astrological Aspects:

‘The Harmonious Aspects are the trine, sextile, and semi-sextile, obtained by dividing the circle of 360° by 3, 6 and 12. Three, it need hardly be said, is the number of Ideal Form; hence it is harmonious, ideal, and concordant. These aspects, therefore, tend to happiness. The Conjunction… is analogous to the number One…. It is potentially either harmonious or inharmonious, and actually it derives its character, in particular cases, from the planets composing it, and from other horoscopic conditions. The Inharmonious Aspects are the opposition, the square, and the minor aspects called the quincunx, semi-square, and sesquiquadrate. These, except the quincunx, are derived from the numbers Two and Four, of which the former is a number of Passivity and Receptivity, and the latter is the number of objective manifestation. It follows that the opposition may be unfortunate by reason of its negativity in relation to opposing forces, and the square may have an inharmonious value, because manifestation necessarily implies limitation and circumscription. The aspects derived from Five, which are the quintile and its cognates, are considered to be weakly benefic. I am not sure that their value is not greater than is generally supposed, although they may not be very obvious in their effects. Five symbolises man as the potential master of Nature and natural forces. Hence their value would be intellectual. No known aspects are derived from Seven or Nine, though I should be very loth to say that none exist.’[23]

It would appear that as late as 1930, Carter was unaware either of Wilde’s work with the septile series or of the suggestions previously made by both Morrison and Brandler-Pracht to adopt the novile series. Yet he adds in a footnote:

‘… it seems to me by no means improbable that 40°, which is a third of the trine and a ninth of the circle, may be a potent benefic influence, at least as strong as the sextile’.[24]

Another new aspect series introduced in the early 20th century is based on the 24-fold division of the circle, to form a base aspect of 15 degrees and its multiples of 75°, 105° and 165°. The earliest record of the use of these 24th-harmonic aspects that I have found is from the pen of A. Frank Glahn, in the 1924 first edition of his main astrological textbook, Erklärung und systematische Deutung des Geburtshoroskopes. Glahn depicts these aspects as forming predominantly neutral connections[25] between the planets separated by these distances; but in a separate table of aspect glyphs[26], he specifies the 15° aspect as being ‘good’, that of 105° as ‘neutral’, and those of 75° and 165° as ‘unfavourable’.

In 1925, Friedrich Sieggrün also lists these aspects in a table in his article Die Fliegerbombe: Astrologische Skizze, as published in the compendium volume Die Hamburger Astrologenschule. As Glahn was a student of Alfred Witte, it seems likely that the use of these aspects had developed within the Hamburg School before he wrote about them in 1924, although it is possible that Glahn himself introduced them to it.

Later German astrologers such as K. W. von Elmensberg, writing in the second volume of her three-volume work Astrognostica Rediviva (1930), and Thomas Ring, as expressed in the first volume (1956) of his four-volume series of books collectively entitled Astrologische Menschenkunde, considered the 24th-harmonic series of aspects to be quite powerful.

In 1939, in his Traité d’Astro-Biologie, the Swiss astrological researcher Karl-Ernst Krafft, an academically trained statistician, went far further than any previous astrologer on written record in introducing a host of new ‘notable intervals’ beyond those that had previously been proposed as pertinent to astrological research. These include distances as little as 10°, 9°, 6° and 5°.

However, Krafft does not appear to have synthesised his research into these extremely minor theoretical aspects into a coherent doctrine applicable to the derivation and interpretation of all harmonic astrological aspects. This task would fall to post-war 20th-century writers outside our timeframe for the purposes of this lecture, with Walter Koch being the pioneering authority to undertake such a synthesis, as published in his book Aspekt-Lehre nach Johannes Kepler (1950). John Addey, David Hamblin and others would add their own thoughts later in the 20th century. For our purposes, it is enough to demonstrate that the successive aspect innovations introduced by experimental astrologers of the early 20th century like Wilde, Brandler-Pracht, Glahn, Carter and Krafft had created a need for a fully cohesive modern theory of harmonic aspects that would go far beyond Kepler’s primitive statements on geometrical figures.

Another development in astrological aspect theory during the early 20th century took root squarely within the Hamburg School of astrology in the 1920s. This was the use of midpoints or half-sums of planetary positions as sensitive points in the horoscope, and the consideration of these sensitive points in hard aspect with celestial bodies and angles to form what are known as planetary pictures. The conjunction, opposition, square and eighth harmonic aspects to midpoints were all considered influential by the Hamburg School astrologers; and to simplify finding such aspects in any chart, they used tools such as the 45° disc and 90° disc. Succinct guidelines for the interpretation of numerous planetary pictures were given in the first edition of Witte’s Regelwerk für Planetenbilder in 1928.

This practice was largely taken on board in the late 1930s by Reinhold Ebertin, who, while rejecting the hypothetical planets of Witte and Sieggrün, adopted the theory of midpoints and planetary pictures, incorporating it into his own astrological system he called Kosmobiologie. A minor distinction is that Ebertin preferred the use of the 90° disc as an aspect-finding tool, whereas the early Hamburg School publications often use a 45° disc. The 45° disc shows all eighth-harmonic aspects, including conjunctions, squares, oppositions, semisquares and sesquiquadrates, as conjunctions, whereas the 90° disc shows only conjunctions, oppositions and squares as conjunctions, and the more minor eighth-harmonic aspects as oppositions, and therefore has the practical advantage of distinguishing visually between them and the fourth-harmonic aspects.

Ebertin’s readings of planetary conjunctions to some midpoints began to appear in 1939 in his book Kosmobiologische Lehrbriefe. A full set of such readings was then printed on cards in the Autumn of 1940, under the title Kombination der Gestirneinflüsse. Only about 20 copies of these cards were sold before Ebertin’s arrest and the confiscation of his library the following June, but two copies were conserved by associates, allowing the work to be printed in book form for the first time in 1947, when it was extended to include Pluto and other interpretative material. It has been reprinted many times since, and translated into English as The Combination of Stellar Influences.


Pioneering Statistical Research into Astrology and other Scientific Developments

Modern statistical research into astrology began to emerge in France in the 1900s, but was foreshadowed by the appetite for it demonstrated by two French astrologers writing in the 1890s: Henri Lizeray and Paul Choisnard.

In 1892, Lizeray self-published a 16-page booklet entitled Horoscopes des Poètes, in which he presented his research indicating a preponderance of famous poets whose planets formed close aspects to fixed stars in the constellation of Pegasus, between 23 degrees of Aquarius and 2 degrees of Aries. Jacques Halbronn sees in his findings linking a profession to a zodiacal area a precursor to the later statistical research of Choisnard.[27]

Choisnard began to neutrally investigate astrology with a view to either refuting or confirming it around 1896, and claimed to have studied about 1,000 astrological charts by April 1900[28]. His first known press article on astrology, L’Astrologie et la Science Moderne, appeared in the Mai 1898 issue of Nouvelle Revue. In this, he argues that after the great strides made by science during the 19th century, it would be appropriate to investigate the truth of astrology using modern research processes. He holds that its opponents have always dismissed it with facile arguments without studying it, [29] and argues that the modern astrologer is in a position to experiment on larger numbers of nativities than previous generations could, helping to advance astrology in the future.[30]

In the November, 1898 issue of La Revue du Monde Invisible, we find by Choisnard, writing under his early pseudonym of Paul Flambart, the article L’Astrologie Est-Elle Une Science Expérimentale?[31] Here, he argues that, being based on calculations and facts, astrology could well find its place among the physical sciences, and is not an occult doctrine that has to be assumed, but an experimental science that can be verified. With the language of a physical scientist, he characterises the interplanetary aspects, the signs of the zodiac, the astrological houses and the ascendant as sources of astral magnetism. He further argues that astrology is the most tangible of all the psychological sciences[32], and more certain than any attempt simply to describe character with words. Then he reports his observation of frequently shared astrological positions within successive generations of the same family, a topic that would become one of his main areas of statistical research, introducing the doctrine of astral heredity that would later be reprised by Michel and Françoise Gauquelin. Aside from character, remarks Choisnard, signs of good or bad health are very often clearly indicated in the natal horoscope,[33] and the times of life when health is most under threat are also astrologically indicated.

Three months later, a Dr. Gallus challenges Choisnard’s view that astrology can be considered scientific, prompting him to reaffirm his position, supported by further arguments. He declares his belief that there is no more magic in astrology than there is in the laws of magnetism or electricity.[34] In his 1903 book Étude Nouvelle sur l’Hérédité, Choisnard postulates a more detailed hypothesis for physical astrological mechanism, arguing that our solar system resembles a dynamo whose planetary radiations operate in accordance with the dynamic theory of vibrations and waves[35], and that since modern physicists have discovered that the Earth’s magnetism varies with the positions of the planets, we should not be surprised that individual human magnetism also varies with them.[36]

From 1904 to 1905, six issues of Le Déterminisme Astral, an astrological research journal edited by the pseudonymous French astrologer Henri Selva (whose real name has been recorded as A. Vlès), were published. In his preface to the first issue, for January 1904, Selva decries the absence of rigorous methodology in past astrological research, and outlines the aim of the journal as being to demonstrate the application of new research procedures for the study and verification of astrology. To this end, he outlines two principles. Selva’s first principle is to have recourse to nothing but observation and to regard all previous astrological claims only as unproven hypotheses.[37] His second principle is to give astrological observations as objective a character as possible, to which end they should be as numerous as possible, with each astrological factor being considered in isolation and statistically presented.[38]

Among the reasons Selva records for the previous failure to demonstrate the reality of astral influence is the past impossibility of co-ordinating and comparing a sufficient number of observations, a reason that he predicts will disappear as useful astrological studies and works increase in number.[39]

Another reason he cites for the past failure to prove astrology is the complexity of the astrological problem. In this catch-all category, he includes the concurrent presence of what he calls terrestrial influences, such as genetic inheritance and environment, operating together with astral influences upon people in shaping their lives, psychologies and destinies.[40] Selva argues, however, that such genetic and environmental factors, while they may sometimes delay research results, are far from amounting to an insurmountable obstacle, and have themselves long been subjects of study, helping to clear the ground for astrological research. Also in the category of complexity, Selva notes the numerous astrological factors traditionally supposed simultaneously to take effect, which requires astral influence to comprise multiple conditions. His solution to this is serially to give proper consideration to each astrological factor in turn.[41]

Selva concludes that if astral influence is real, it will have definite and invariable laws that cannot escape experimental detection. To determine them will require the institution of appropriate methods of observation, without recourse to mystical postulates.[42]

In his following article, Étude des conditions astrales à la naissance de quelques personnalités remarquables par las puissance intellectuelle, which commences in the January 1904 issue and is completed in that of March 1904, Selva sets the tone for the kinds of astrological research methods he advocates, by presenting his own small study of 67 public figures known for their high level of intellectual ability. The distributions of 106 astrological chart factors across the 67 nativities are tallied up. Included are example graphs showing the distribution of the sign placements of the luminaries and inner planets around the statistically expected norms, which are expressed in percentage terms. Selva himself recognises that 67 natal charts amounts to an inadequate sample size for definitive proof, stating that his study in its current form is just a primer that is suited to being taken further by other researchers.[43]

Selva’s aforementioned study is the first in a series presented within the pages of Le Déterminisme Astrale under the heading Recherches Astrologiques. Others by diverse authors follow from the second issue onwards. These include a lengthy serialised statistical study by a seemingly mathematically erudite astrologer called J. Stéphane of the solar revolutions preceding the deaths of fifty subjects[44].

Also included is a study by Choisnard of the distribution of Ascendant signs and Moon signs among 123 individuals famed for their creative faculties in science, art or philosophy.[45] His results show a pronouncedly elevated distribution of ascendants in the Air signs, as well as to a lesser degree in Virgo and Scorpio. As far as the Moon sign is concerned, the results are mostly fairly even, but none of the 123 subjects has Moon in Scorpio. Choisnard investigates a control group of 1450 unsorted general nativities to establish the expected frequency of the Moon in Scorpio. Assessing from his control group that it should be close to one in ten subjects, he therefore regards the very low frequency of the Moon in Scorpio in his test group as significant. Selva had similarly found no subjects with the Moon in Scorpio in his previous test of a smaller sample of public intellectuals.

In the third issue, Selva presents another study of 67 subjects, this time focused on criminals, and looking in particular at the situations of the Moon, Mercury and Mars in their nativities.[46] This finds a peak in the distribution of the Moon in either Aries or Pisces, and to a lesser degree in Scorpio, and a corresponding trough in the distribution of the Moon in the polar signs of these three signs, Libra, Virgo and Taurus. Again, Selva expresses awareness that larger-scale research is needed to verify these observations. [47]

It is in the fifth number of Le Déterminisme Astral that we first see Choisnard addressing the question of the value of statistical research into astrology, in a short article entitled La statistique en astrologie.[48] His position at this stage is surprisingly sceptical on this point, as embodied in his concluding remark that in astrology, statistics does not generally have a rigorous application. Earlier in the article, he expresses a preference to focus study on the outstanding individual cases exhibiting particular characteristics.

Another noteworthy inclusion in Le Déterminisme Astral is a lengthy article credited to E. C., believed to be French astrologer Eugène Caslant, entitled L’Influence électro-dynamique des astres[49], wherein he postulates an electrical mechanism for astrological influence.

In his 1908 work Preuves et Bases de l’Astrologie Scientifique, Choisnard, in the chapter headed Preuves de l’Influence Astrale Capable de Servir de Base Positive à L’Astrologie Scientifique, outlines multiple theoretical avenues for the proof of astrology, including but not limited to statistics. His section on statistical proofs in the chapter chiefly refers back to his early research findings detailed in Le Déterminisme Astral.[50]

But in the next chapter, De La Méthode en Astrologie Scientifique, he addresses some important considerations in statistical research methodology[51]. These include the fact that from a geocentric perspective, certain interplanetary aspects occur much more frequently than others. It is therefore essential before any meaningful statistical analysis of research groups is possible, he argues, to create control groups showing the normal distribution of each astrological factor.[52]

By this time, Choisnard has been brought round to the necessity of statistical research, declaring that ‘astrology being a science of correspondences and observations, it is clear that none of its laws can be confirmed without statistical studies in one form or another’.[53]

However, he continues to express a personal preference for the direct interpretation of individual charts, arguing that statistical analyses eliminate nuances and the relationships between different factors in real charts. They are best used only as a rough guide to the range of expression of isolated chart factors[54] and as indicators of an increased or decreased probability that an individual with a particular placement will have a certain aptitude or character trait[55].

He then summarises the results of an investigation into the distribution of aspects between Sun and Mars in 200 French individuals who died between the ages of 20 and 50 in the 19th century, finding by comparison with a control group of 1000 that conjunctions, squares and sextiles between Sun and Mars occur more frequently in the research sample than would be expected by chance, while trines and an absence of any major aspect occur less frequently.[56]

Two other statistical studies with research sample sizes of 200 follow. One of these finds an increased frequency of aspects between Mars and all other planets in military professionals compared with in civilians. By modern statistical standards, all these sample sizes are inadequate, but they are a threefold improvement on Selva’s samples of 67 cases in his studies, and were perhaps the best Choisnard could do with the birth data available to him in the 1900s.

Choisnard continued to write prolifically on astrology until his death in February 1930. His corpus is too extensive and diverse to describe in full here, but let us highlight one more important work of his on statistical research methods, Le Calcul des Probabilités Appliqué à L’Astrologie: Dénombre et Fréquences de Facteurs astrologiques (1914)[57]. This short book of 89 pages was originally serialised in two successive issues of the second year of the short-lived astrological journal L’Influence Astrale, in which Choisnard regularly participated.

Here, Choisnard advocates the inclusion of 74 key factors in astrological research – slightly fewer than the number previously proposed by Selva. These comprise the 11 zodiacal sign placements of the nine known planets, Ascendant and Midheaven, the 9 house placements of the same nine planets, and the 54 angular distances of the planets, Ascendant and Midheaven from each other, discounting that separating the Ascendant from the Midheaven. He proposes to limit research to six classes of major aspects: the conjunction, parallel, opposition, square, trine and sextile.[58]

For the purposes of comparing study group frequencies with those expected by chance, the book includes a Table of Astrological Factors naming the astronomically expected percentage frequency of planets in the signs and houses, as well as the expected frequencies of a small selection of interplantery aspects.[59] This table is unfortunately flawed by the failure to account for the uneven orbital motion of planets such as Mars, which spends considerably longer in parts of the zodiac, and by the failure to allow for the significantly greater likelihood of some ascendant signs than others at relatively high latitudes. It appears that Choisnard has failed by this point in time (1914) to fully acquaint himself with the natural astronomical distributions of these factors, or to calculate control groups that would expose this, despite his repeatedly advocating doing so.

However, in the general principles it outlines, the book is the most complete manual for statistical astrological research methods that had been published by then. It concludes with its author’s observation that many disinterested workers are needed to properly scientifically explore astrology, implying that it will be difficult to attract enough people to such unsalaried work.

This book was not Choisnard’s last word on the topic. In his 1924 book Essai de Psychologie Astrale, he records a statistical study he has undertaken of 310 philosophers against a control group of 300, and his finding of seemingly significant peaks in certain astrological placements.[60]

In later life, Choisnard also went on to write L’Influence Astrale et les Probabilités (1924), Les Preuves de l’Influence Astrale sur L’homme (1927), and La Méthode Statistique et le Bon Sens en Astrologie Scientifique (1930). All of these are further relevant to his development of the emerging field of scientific astrological research. But we have given his work enough attention for present purposes.

Meanwhile, a British researcher based predominantly in India named G. E. Sutcliffe had gone to great lengths to set out his hypothesis for a physical astrological mechanism in a serial article entitled The Foundations of Physical Astrology, which commenced in the September, 1906 issue of Modern Astrology magazine and continued to appear until the March, 1911 issue. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of his scientific orientation to the topic of astrology, Sutcliffe was counted as a friend by the editor of M. A., Alan Leo, who invited him to accompany him as his ‘representative’ on at least one of his own visits to India. 

Next, we move to Germany, where in July 1909, Alexander Bethor became the founding editor of the journal Zodiakus: Erste deutsche Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Astrologie, whose initial run lasted for 29 issues until late 1912. The editorial to the first issue declares the purpose of the journal to examine astrology after the method of the exact sciences, and affirms that it is time for it to be brought out of oblivion and related to the disciplines of physics, psychology and physiology.[61]

While the content of Zodiakus is not exclusively scientifically oriented in practice, and there is little if any statistical analysis to be found within its pages, Bethor himself contributes a series of articles headed Naturwissenschaftliche Begründung der Astrologie, which starts in the very first issue and continues into the second year. The main focus of this is his own hypothesis for a physical basis for astrological mechanism, a familiar theme from the previous efforts of Caslant and Sutcliffe. In the third year, he writes a shorter series of articles headed Das Experiment in der Astrologie[62], in which he declares that observations are not enough to establish astrology as an exact science, and experiments are also needed. He expresses doubts regarding the extent to which astrology is amenable to experiment, but cites the investigation of the hit rate for astrological predictions as being one area worth exploring, and claims to have experienced a success rate in excess of 80% in his own predictive experiments.

Another noteworthy contributor to Zodiakus is veteran German astrological researcher Albert Kniepf, who had already written a booklet entitled Die Physik der Astrologie (The Physics of Astrology) in 1899. In the third issue of Year 3 of Zodiakus, dated by the printer to March 1912, he follows this with an article entitled Neues zu Physik der Astrologie, in which he refers appreciatively to Sutcliffe’s lengthy series of articles on the subject. Although declaring that it has received little attention from astrologers, he concludes that Sutcliffe’s approach marks the beginning of a new method of astrological research.

Swiss astrologer Karl-Ernst Krafft was a major contributor to astrological research in the 1920s and 1930s. One of his early booklets, Influences Cosmiques Sur L’Individu Humain, was published at Geneva in 1923. Here, he rejects multiple modern objections to astrology as being aprioristic and false, including the claim that the distance of the celestial bodies is too great for them to exert a perceptible influence, the claim that the Copernican model of solar system mechanics has invalidated the principles of geocentric astrology,[63] and the objection that astrology entails a fatalistic worldview.

After favourably referring to two of Choisnard’s existing books, Krafft outlines his own astrological research methodology, which includes applying the procedures and control methods of modern statistics, and the use of ‘sufficiently large’ sample sizes. [64] Without giving full details, he announces that he has conducted his own research into astral heredity, having read the writings of Choisnard on the topic, and has come to agree with him that there are resemblances between the birth charts of members of the same family that exceed what would be expected by chance.[65] Krafft then states that he has studied the birth data of 2700 musicians born since 1820, and proceeded to the systematic analysis of each chart factor, leading him to the specific conclusion that there is a close correlation between birth charts and musical temperaments, and to the more general conclusion that the birth chart has a very extensive influence on the temperament of the human individual.[66]

He further announces that he has researched the astrological factors attending the deaths of 1100 musicians whose dates of death were recorded, in order to assess the hypothesis that astral influences also affect human physiology. This has led him to conclude that there is a connection between the birth chart and the timing of death, based on the passage of moving astrological factors over fixed ones in the birth chart, which he also links causally to the timing of non-fatal illnesses.[67]

Krafft’s research has also led him to believe in the variable expression of every planet in each sign and decanate of the tropical zodiac, but he has not found evidence to persuade him of their expression varying with the background constellations. His research has led him to believe in an abrupt change of planetary expression from one tropical sign to the next, and not in a gradual transition. He claims to have validated by his analyses the power of the 12th-harmonic, eight-harmonic, sixth-harmonic, fifth-harmonic and fourth-harmonic aspects. [68] He concludes that many of the basic tenets of traditional astrology have been proven correct by his statistical research, but acknowledges that the accurate interpretation of nativities relies partly on divination.[69]

In the foreword to his next important booklet, Influences Solaires et Lunaires sur la Naissance Humaine (1928), Krafft declares that over many years, using rigorous scientific methods, he has studied over 10,000 birth data gathered mainly from the civil register, and recorded over 700,000 astrological observations for statistical analysis, which works out to about 70 astrological factors noted per birth chart, a similar number to those previously advocated by Selva and Choisnard.

The focus of his present study is the statistical distribution of the positions of the Sun and the Moon at the time of human birth, and the hypothesis investigated was whether or not this distribution deviates from what would be expected by chance. This is not a conventional astrological study, as it is not correlating the positions of the luminaries with human personality, physiology or destiny, but it is more broadly a form of astrological research as it is investigating the degree to which the timing of human birth may be affected by the luminaries. Krafft studies 2218 births at Geneva between 1902 and 1922, and uses a larger cohort of births at Basel as a control group to check that the study group is more broadly representative. Among other more specific discoveries, he finds a connection between the position of the Sun and the timing of male births, and one between the position of the Moon and the timing of female births,[70] which he considers to support astrological tradition.

Also published in 1928 was Krafft’s book Astro-Physiologie, in which he declares that since some statistical studies have already demonstrated astrobiological relationships, it is reasonable to assume that there are also connections between the position and motion of the celestial bodies and the structure and development of the human body. To this end, he presents in more detail his previously alluded-to study into the timing of the deaths of musicians. He concludes that the positions of the celestial bodies at the time of birth permanently imprint themselves on the human organism and become the basis for further physical development, and that transits in relation to the birth chart affect physiological functions and have a relationship to death.[71]

Also presented in this book are Krafft’s studies correlating the position of the Moon at birth with 777 boys who died before the age of two and 628 girls who died in early childhood. For this purpose, he divides the ecliptic into five-degree portions, and plots the frequency of the Moon in each. Pronounced peaks and troughs are found in certain five-degree sectors for both the boys and the girls in the study. Krafft compares this distribution with a control group of 2218 births drawn from his study into solar and lunar influences on the timing of human birth, and finds that only a few of the maxima and minima in the distribution of lunar positions in his study groups can be accounted for by differences in the human population at large. He further studies a cohort of 723 cases of longevity.

Critics could argue that Krafft’s sample sizes for these studies were too small for the division of data into five-degree sectors to produce statistically meaningful results, because a study group of about 720 births would be expected on average to show the Moon in each five-degree sector only about ten times, as there are 72 five-degree sectors of the ecliptic, and considerable fluctuations around this average would be expected as statistical noise; but his very attempt to group the distribution of lunar positions with such a degree of precision as part of a statistical research undertaking was groundbreaking.

In the early 1930s, Krafft collaborated with Swiss academic Adolphe Ferrière (1879-1960), a Doctor of Sociology, on the book Caractérologie Typocosmique, which was published at Geneva in 1932[72]. Ferrière had himself written several journal articles and short books on psychological types since 1922, but his research on the topic goes back much earlier. In 1905, Ferrière had proposed three basic psychological types: the imitative or conventional type; the intuitive type; and the reflective or rational type. To these he added a fourth, the sensory or primitive type, in 1912; and this material was sketched out in the seventh chapter of his 1915 book Loi du Progrès de Biologie et en Sociologie. Since 1925, he had become aware of the similar work of four other researchers, namely French psychoanalyst René Allendy (1889-1942), French doctor Paul Carton (1875-1947), German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer (1888-1964) and Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), and had begun to attempt to integrate their observations into his system. In 1927, he subdivided each of his initial four types into three to give twelve.[73] These are later set out in detail in his 1943 book Vers une Classification Naturelle des Types Psychologiques[74].

In the preface to his book co-authored with Krafft, which is dated October 1931, Ferrière describes how at the Fifth International Congress of New Education held at Elseneur, Denmark, in 1929, he had presided over a section dedicated to individual psychology and to psychological types. At this conference, Krafft had presented some of his remarkable statistical research. Following the conference, a permanent commission for the study of psychological types was established. The book is presented as a contribution to the work of this commission. [75] However, Krafft’s association with Ferrière is revealed to date back at least to 1926 by the inclusion of Ferrière’s preface dated December 1926 to an unpublished work by Krafft.

Their new joint book comprises five short essays. The second, Typocosmie, is by Krafft, and ascribes psychological archetypes to each of the planets from Mercury to Neptune. The fourth, Ontogénie, is by Ferrière, and characterises 36 periods of psychological evolution in the course of life, the first 24 of which are linked to approximate ages in youth[76], but any of which, as he contends in the final essay, Les Types Psychologiques, can set the dominant tone for adult psychology.[77] Ferrière concludes that his own designation of twelve psychological types does not contradict Krafft’s seven planetary archetypes, and indeed shows considerable degrees of correspondence with it, and that further research should be pursued.

Ferrière’s work on integrating astrology with psychological types would bear full fruit only after the Second World War, with the publication of his four-volume work Typocosmie (1946-1955). But it was already well underway within our period of study.

In 1939, Krafft’s last major work of relevance, Traité d’Astro-Biologie, a book of just over 350 pages, was published. This reprints his early booklet Influences Cosmiques sur l’Individu Humain, summarises his other previously published research, and presents a wide range of theoretical research-oriented material, most of which is his own, although two essays are also contributed by colleagues, one being his old collaborator Ferrière, and the other Étienne Budai. At the end of the volume is an encyclopaedic dictionary of astrological research terminology. Nowhere to be found in the book is any conventional exposition of astrological principles. Although the presentation leaps around somewhat scattily between topics, the book is, for its time, a state-of-the-art primer of scientific astrological research methods and considerations. Krafft, unlike Ferrière, did not survive the war, becoming one of the innumerable victims of incarceration by the Nazi regime, as documented by historian Ellic Howe in his 1967 book Urania’s Children.

In France, a new quarterly peer-reviewed scientific research journal entitled Cosmobiologie Cosmophysiologie Cosmopathologie was launched in the last quarter of 1934 by a body styled the Association Internationale pour l’Étude des Radiations Solaires, Terrestres et Cosmiques et de leurs effets Biologiques et Pathologiques, which had been founded at Nice in 1932. The journal was edited by Dr. Maurice Faure, a resident of the southern French city. It aimed to look at cosmic influences on terrestrial life-forms and phenomena in their totality, including plant growth and meteorology, and was not confined to the exploration of astrological influences on humans. The directors were mostly academic, many being from the field of medicine; but both Krafft and Belgian astrologer Gustave-Lambert Brahy appear on the credit list of the first issue, and Faure himself also shows an acquaintance with astrology and astrological publications in his personal contributions to the journal. Publication appears to have continued until 1940, when it is presumed to have been terminated by the war.

In Germany, another astrologer who contributed significantly to the modernisation of astrological research along statistical lines with H. Baron von Klöckler. The second half of his major work Astrologie als Erfahrungswissenschaft (1927) is headed ‘Statistik’, and includes in its 173 pages sixteen short chapters on statistical methods in astrology and eighteen detailed chapters on particular statistical investigations already carried out. The research sample sizes for these assorted reported investigations are variable, but tend to be much smaller than those used by Krafft and more comparable with those used by Selva and Choisnard, ranging from just 43 cases to 720, but with most being under 200 and many under 100. The subjects include eight different groups of professions, and also cases of fraud, theft, divorce, accidents, murder, suicide, early death in childhood, and a theme familiar to Krafft, planetary transits at death. What von Klöckler’s presentation lacks in scientifically adequate sample sizes it arguably makes up for in the breadth of research it touches upon, providing plenty of inspiration for others to undertake further studies of each of the topics covered.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, Duncan Macnaughton and Charles Carter and both gave considerable attention to the empirical study of degree areas of the zodiac. Although neither of them gives a transparent account of statistical methodology, both authors characterise their own research as being ‘scientific’. Starting in the October 1919 issue of Modern Astrology[78], Macnaughton looks serially at the astrological signatures of different professions, with considerable emphasis being placed on individual degrees of certain signs. Although the editors of Modern Astrology (then comprising Bessie Leo and Vivian Robson, among whom the voice of Robson seems the more likely one here) add disclaimers, and some correspondents[79] express considerable scepticism towards Macnaughton’s claims of having been able to isolate the influence of individual degrees, his series of articles reaches its fourteenth instalment in the March 1923 issue.

Inspired initially by Macnaughton’s work, Carter undertook his own independent research into the psychological influence of degree influences, and came to a firm conviction in their reality, as expressed in his foreword, dated 1923[80], to the first edition of his Concise Encyclopaedia of Psychological Astrology (1924). The Encyclopaedia as a whole encompasses indications by more conventional astrological factors of a wide range of psychological conditions and dispositions, as well as some medical conditions, but also includes mentions of degree areas under certain entries.

Macnaughton later took Carter’s line of research into the domain of medical astrology much further. Volumes 3 to 5 of his series of books called The Wheel of Life, or Scientific Astrology, which were credited to his pseudonym of Maurice Wemyss and published around 1929, 1935 and 1944 respectively, are devoted to the analysis of degree influences corresponding to health conditions whose names begin with the letters A-G. It was Macnaughton’s intention to publish three more volumes to complete this work, but they never materialised.

In one of his later books, The Astrology of Accidents (1932), Carter presents the results of his study of 168 serious accidents from different causes, tallying the distribution of the tropical sign placements of the Ascendant, luminaries and five classically known planets, the house placements of the luminaries and planets, and the range of angular separations, expressed at five-degree intervals, for every pair of factors, in the nativities of the victims. Carter interestingly credits Krafft with both inspiration for and assistance in his statistical study, referring to a series of lectures Krafft delivered to the Astrological Lodge of London years previously.[81] Nonetheless, Carter’s sample size is arguably inadequate for definite conclusions to be drawn, being closer to those used previously by Paul Choisnard than to the larger ones Krafft was in the habit of deploying.

A British astrologer who made a particularly distinctive name for himself in the 1930s with his advocacy of a scientific approach to astrology was W. J. Tucker. At a time when theosophical astrology had long dominated the British astrological scene, Tucker set up his own independent organisation, the British Association of Scientific Astrologers, to promote his particular vision of scientific astrology.

Arguing at marked variance with Krafft that the effects supposed of each sign of the zodiac were chiefly a product of the constellations[82], Tucker investigated the influence of the constellations on the eastern horizon at birth, in combination with the sun and moon signs, upon physiognomy[83].

Tucker also criticised all conventional house systems, expressing scepticism regarding the effects traditionally ascribed to planetary house placements[84]. Taking inspiration from the writings of his brother, who used the pen-name Pythagorean, he further proposed a new house system called The Zenith System.[85]

Tucker conducted extensive empirical research into the astrological impact of the fixed stars, which he felt had been neglected by modern astrologers. In his 1946 book The Fixed Stars and Your Horoscope, which he had completed in 1939, but whose publication was delayed by the Second World War, he places particular emphasis on the power of fixed stars when they are occulted by a luminary or planet at birth. He then groups the stars into white, red and yellow ones, and gives separate readings for transits by the outer planets to each thus-categorised group of stars in each of the twelve solar houses, taking into consideration which luminary or planet was occulting them at birth. He claims that his readings have been based on the study of ‘many thousands of horoscopes’[86].

In his 1938 book The Principles of Scientific Astrology, Tucker postulates an electromagnetic physical basis to astrological influence[87]. This was taken further in his later book Physics and Astrology[88], which did not appear before 1966 and therefore falls well outside our timeline. Tucker’s career as an astrological researcher and theorist was long and innovative, if an iconoclastic one.

In the USA, there were several prominent voices who developed new astrological techniques and philosophies in the early 20th century, including John Hazelrigg, Marc Edmund Jones, Lorne Edward Johndro, and French emigré Daniel Chennevière, who is better known by his pseudonym of Dane Rudhyar.

There is not space in this lecture for a thorough exploration of the work of each of these thinkers; and both Jones and Rudhyar are arguably worthy of complete essays in their own right. Suffice it to say that Europe did not have a monopoly on modern scientific astrological thinking between 1890 and 1939.

A point of particular relevance to our foregoing discussion, however, is that just four years after Krafft and Ferrière presented their outline template for the integration of psychological types with astrology in their 1932 book Caractérologie Typologique, Rudhyar presented his own vision for such an integration in his landmark 1936 book The Astrology of Personality, which, unlike Ferrière’s multi-faceted theory of psychological types, leaned almost exclusively on the work of one psychologist, C. G. Jung.

Statistical astrological research would continue apace after the war, with prominent studies appearing by Léon Lasson in France in 1946[89] and by Donald Bradley in the USA in 1950[90]. These studies bridged the gap between the earlier research of Selva, Choisnard, von Klöckler and Krafft, and the later large-scale statistical experiments conducted by Michel and Françoise Gauquelin from the 1950s to the 1980s.


Brief observations on the Organisation of Astrologers

During this period, four different astrological organisations including in their names the term ‘Scientific Astrologers’ were established:

  • Scientific Astrologers (US organisation active c. 1910; a prominent member was James Donnell Keifer);
  • The British Association of Scientific Astrologers (UK organisation presided over by W. J. Tucker; active 1935-1947);
  • The American Association of Scientific Astrologers (US organisation presided over by Adrian M. Ziegler; active 1936-1938)
  • The American Federation of Scientific Astrologers (established 1938; eventually shortened its name to the American Federation of Astrologers after 1944).

I have found evidence that the American Association of Scientific Astrologers was formed as a counterpart to Tucker’s British Association following his attendance of an international conference at which he influenced an American astrologer. The American Association in turn begat the American Federation of Scientific Astrologers in 1938. Thus there is a proven direct line of influence from Tucker through to the American Federation of Astrologers that still exists today.

Also worthy of note is the emerging phenomenon starting in the 1930s of astrological conferences expressly dedicated to scientific astrology. In the USA, both the A.A.S.A and the subsequent A.F.S.A. held major annual or biennial conventions. Additionally, a series of recurring events in California called the West Coast U. S. Convention of Scientific Astrologers was launched in the late 1930s.

Other American astrological organisations that sprung up in this period were less focused on the word ‘scientific’ but took a strong line on the establishment of ethical guidelines in astrology. These included the American Academy of Astrologians and the National Astrological Society, both active in the 1910s, and the later National Astrological Association, which was prominent between the late 1920s and the mid-1930s. The A.F.S.A. also developed its own strongly stated code of ethics from its launch in 1938.

In continental Europe, a series of international conventions typically referred to collectively as Congrès International d’Astrologie Scientifique began to be held periodically at different venues in Germany, Belgium and France, starting in 1931. The first of these international congresses was also deemed to be the tenth in a series of national ones in Germany, which themselves continued annually until shut down by the Nazi regime on the eve of the Second World War, and were a rich source of exchange for new astrological research and ideas. The international scientific astrology congresses were interrupted by the Second World War, and later dropped the epithet scientifique from their names; but they resumed periodically after the war, and had reached the 7th event at Paris in December 1953.



The half-century period from 1890 to 1939 was one in which a modern scientific consciousness internationally pervaded much of western astrological theory and practice, although it met with differing levels of manifestation and did not always accord with the strictest interpretations of the word ‘scientific’ among proponents of the hard sciences. It was a period when many astrologers strove to make astrology more acceptable to a modern scientific worldview, and in which there was a widespread belief that astrology could ultimately be scientifically demonstrated to be factual, if not in all its traditional details, at least in an abiding core of its principles and techniques that would withstand close empirical scrutiny.



[1] Graves, Philip, When did modern astrologers first agree that astrology is not a science? – in Infinity Astrological Magazine, July / August, 2020

[2] German for ‘science’

[3] German for ‘scientific’

[4] Another German word for ‘scientific’

[5] German for ‘empirical science’

[6] German for ‘secret science’ / ‘occult science’

[7] French for ‘research(es)’

[8] German for ‘research’

[9] German for ‘research results’

[10] Only as a noun meaning ‘physics’, or in the adjectival sense meaning ‘physical’ in the sense of relating to the scientifically viewed physical world and laws of physics, as distinct from bodily in a human biological sense

[11] German for ‘physics’

[12] German for ‘astrophysical’

[13] French for ‘experiment(al)’

[14] French for ‘experimentation(s)

[15] French for ‘statistics’ or ‘statistical’

[16] German for ‘statistics’

[17] German for ‘statistical’

[18] Fomalhaut, Manuel d’Astrologie Sphérique et Judiciaire – Vigot Frères, Éditeurs, Paris, 1897, p. 217

[19] Macnaughton, Duncan, Correspondence: Undiscovered Planets, in Modern Astrology New Series Volume 16, No., September 1919, p. 287

[20] Chaney, W. H., A Primer of Astrology and American Urania (1890), Part 2, p. 67

[21] Op. cit., p. 75

[22] The Astrologer’s Magazine, Vol. I No. 2, September 1890, pp. 44-6

[23] Carter, Charles E. O., The Astrological Aspects – L. N. Fowler & Co., London, 1930, pp. 8-9

[24] Ibid., p. 9

[25] Glahn, A. Frank, Erklärung und systematische Deutung des Geburtshoroskopes (1924), p. 174

[26] Ibid., p. 52

[27] Halbronn, Jacques, La Vie Astrologique il y a Cent Ans – Guy Trédaniel, 1992, pp. 79-81

[28] Flambart, Paul, Influence Astrale (Essai d’Astrologie Expérimentale) – Imprimerie de la Société des Journaux Spiritualistes Réunis, Paris, 1901, Préface

[29] Ibid., pp. 7-8

[30] Ibid., p. 12

[31] Revue du Monde Invisible, Vol. 1 No. 6, 15 novembre 1898, pp. 361-5

[32] Ibid., p. 363

[33] Ibid., p. 364

[34] Revue du Monde Invisible, Vol. 1 No. 9, 15 février 1899, p. 556

[35] Flambart, Paul, Étude Nouvelle sur l’Hérédité – Bibliothèque Chacornac, Paris, 1903, p. 118

[36] Ibid., p. 120

[37] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 1, janvier 1904, p. 2

[38] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 1, janvier 1904, p. 3

[39] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 1, janvier 1904, p. 6

[40] Ibid.

[41] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 1, janvier 1904, p. 7

[42] Ibid.

[43] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 1, janvier 1904, p. 8

[44] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 2, mars 1904, pp. 45-51

[45] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 2, mars 1904, pp. 51-57

[46] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 3-4, mai-juillet 1904, pp. 108-115

[47] Ibid., p. 111

[48] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 5, janvier 1905, pp. 141-3

[49] Le Déterminisme Astral, No. 3-4, Mai-Juillet 1904, pp. 77-99

[50] Flambart, Paul, Preuves et Bases d’Astrologie Scientifique – Bibliothèque Chacornac, Paris, 1908, pp. 52-67

[51] Ibid., pp. 94-127

[52] Ibid., pp. 98-100

[53] Ibid., p. 100

[54] Ibid., pp. 104-108

[55] Ibid., pp. 109-113

[56] Ibid., pp. 113-117

[57] Flambart, Paul, Le Calcul des Probabilités Appliqué à l’Astrologie – Hector et Henri Durveille, Paris, 1914.

[58] Ibid., p. 9

[59] Ibid., p. 35

[60] Choisnard, Paul, Essai de Psychologie Astrale Accompagné d’un Dictionnaire de Psychologie Astrale Destiné à l’interprétation – Librarie Félix Alcan, Paris, 1925, p. 54

[61] Zodiakus: Erste Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Astrologie, 1. Heft, Juli 1909, pp. 1-2

[62] Commences in Zodiakus 3. Jahrgang, 1. Heft, 1911, pp. 8-13

[63] Krafft, Ch. E., Influences Cosmiques sur l’Individu Humain (extrait de la Revue Vers L’Unité) – Impression Sadag, Genève, 1923, p. 5

[64] Ibid., p. 6

[65] Ibid., pp. 9-10

[66] Ibid., p. 11

[67] Ibid., pp. 12-13

[68] Ibid., p. 14

[69] Ibid., pp. 19-20

[70] Krafft, K. E., Influences solaires et lunairs sur la Naissance Humaine – Éditions Médicales Norbert Maloine, Paris, 1928, p. 50

[71] Krafft, K. E., Astro-Physiologie – Astro-Verlag, Leipzig, 1928, p. 26

[72] Caractérologie Typocosmique: Cadre Synthétique pour l’étude des types psychologiques, la compréhension de l’individualité et l’éducation des enfants et des adultes, publié par la Commission permanente de psychologie individuelle et de typologie – Au Bureau de la Ligue Internationale pour l’Éducation Nouvelle, Genève, 1932

[73] Ferrière, Dr. Ad., Vers une Classification Naturelle des Types Psychologiques – Éditions des Cahiers Astrologiques, 1943, p. 10

[74] Ibid., pp. 50-67

[75] Caractérologie Typocosmique, pp. 1-2

[76] Ibid., pp. 50-52

[77] Ibid., pp. 53-4

[78] Macnaughton, Duncan, Professions and Occupations I. – The Army, in Modern Astrology, New Series Volume XVI, No. 10, pp. 301-2

[79] See for example letter by Venus-in-Aquarius in Modern Astrology New Series Volume 17, No. 6, June 1920, pp. 189-190

[80] Carter, Charles E. O., A Concise Encyclopaedia of Psychological Astrology Together with Observations of the Astrological Characteristics of about Fifty Diseases, and an Introductory Essay on the Zodiacal Signs from the Standpoint of Biology and Psychology – W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd., London, 1924, pp. 6-7

[81] Carter, Charles E. O., The Astrology of Accidents: Recent Investigations and Research – L. N. Fowler & Co., London, [1932], p. 9

[82] Tucker, Wm. J., Your Stars of Destiny – Science & Astrology Ltd. / L. N. Fowler & Co., London [1935], pp. 85-6

[83] Ibid., pp. 46-122

[84] Ibid., pp. 38-9

[85] Tucker, William J., The Principles of Scientific Astrology – J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia & New York / London, 1938, pp. 223-238; pp. 295-322

[86] Tucker, William J., The Fixed Stars and Your Horoscope – L. N. Fowler & Co., Ltd., London, [1946], p. xiii

[87] Tucker, William J., The Principles of Scientific Astrology, pp. 78-85

[88] Tucker, W. J., Physics and Astrology – the Key-Science of the Sciences – Pythagorean Publications (W. J. Tucker), Sidcup, Kent, 1966

[89] Lasson, Léon, Ceux Qui Nous Guident – Éditions René Debresse, Paris, 1946

[90] Bradley, Donald A., (Foundation Report No. 1:) Profession and Birthdate: A Statistical Analysis of Planetary Positions at the Birthdates of 2492 Eminent American Clergymen’ – Llewellyn Foundation for Astrological Research, 1950

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