In our turbulent new century, shaken by frequent fluctuations, it is not surprising for anyone to notice that the air is filled with the prophesies of Nostradamus and the mainstream media deals with his future predictions. The same kind of stuff appears everywhere only in different wrapping; that wind appears to be blowing all over the world, not in just one or two countries. Interestingly and disturbingly depressive is how the masses respond to the question “Who is Nostradamus?” Nine out of ten times, the answer will be “He is a fortuneteller, magician, and a soothsayer.” Yet, it is rarely known that four-hundred-fifty years ago Michel de Nostredame was known as a reputed apothecary, physician and scientist, acclaimed to have found an effective cure for the plague.
Western media loves to interpret Nostradamus’ so-called “prophecies” and to broadcast these interpretations to headlines from time-to-time (especially during global crises). After the September 11 tragedy, you may recall a short poem that appeared on newspapers, magazines and some internet web sites: If you switched the stanzas around a little with some interpretation, it conveyed the incident of the “Twin Towers” on that date. Oddly enough, this gave credence to an international war predicted by Nostradamus, even as if he knew of the September 11 tragedy. Then it soon became clear that the poem attributed to him was an entirely made up hoax, written down by someone to tease people and it had nothing to do with Nostradamus prophecies!
Now if you go out with a camera like one of our well-known heralders and ask people about Nostradamus, most will give the answers I mentioned above. Even though he is famous for the corpus of text titled Centuries which included poetic expressions reflecting his world view and presented symbolic aphorisms on human civilization, his works are mostly considered a kind of foretelling and prophecy and hence, the “riddle specialists” all around the world seem enthusiastically try to interpret his quatrains.
Yet, Nostradamus was one of the most illuminated, wise and extraordinary scientists of the sixteenth century and unfortunately, only a small minority appears to be aware of this. Most probably, the master resents this from his grave because he had a rigorous medical education supported by scientific research and became a great master of botany, chemistry and pharmacology. He was even called a “Doomsday Foreteller” for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Michel de Nostredame was born in 1503 in St. Remy, France. Grandfather Jacques de Nostredame was the private doctor to King René of Provence, and he too was a great master of botany. Michel followed in his footsteps; even as a small child, he was very familiar with herbs and their qualities, gathered information on herbal healing of diseases, and experimented with them. Dr. Nostredame studied medicine at Montpellier University at the same time he followed the family tradition by using his botany knowledge in his medicine practice. He had knowledge about, and was familiar with, all the herbs of the Middle and South Europe and was also a chemistry expert. Hence, his knowledge and mind focused on pharmacological areas and he discovered many “miracle” remedies for the “nightmare” types of diseases of his time. In the sixteenth century, while the Black Death was threatening the entire Europe, Michel de Nostredame was traveling all over France with his bag of herbs collected from many different places and healed many, while he was considered to be immune to the plague.
Like most scientists of his time, Nostredame worked under great pressure because the Church accused and labeled all distinguished research scientists with witchcraft. Moreover, he had to work under great secrecy most of the time. Again, like most scientists of his time, he was interested in many different disciplines that included mastery in medicine, botany and pharmacology. Due to his deep interest in astronomy, he collected all the old documents he could find and tried to inspect each one thoroughly.
The atmosphere of the sixteenth century and the haunting effect of the witch hunts conducted by the Church, forced scientists to keep their researches secret and go underground. Since they blindly pursued the “old wisdom,” they inevitably crossed paths with occultism, which was considered “forbidden science”. Therefore, while difficult to distinguish between the right and wrong, it may be due to Michel de Nostredame’s strong intuition that he was so deeply involved in astrology and “prophecy art” for a period of time. Most probably, it was this unique ability that made him Catherine de Medici’s favorite and she requested his presence in the palace for advice.
Written in quatrains, Centuries is just one of his many works which may have been influenced by old myths or possibly the passionate need of this great scientist to foretell the future. Today, there are hundreds of “interpreters” of his work all around the world, and they try to put special meanings to these quatrains by relentlessly distorting them to suit their purposes. It is presumed that most of Nostredame’s prophecies holds true. This is completely another story, and frankly, I am not at all interested. What’s disconcerting? A scientist of such vast training and knowledge—master of herbs, chemistry and many other subjects, authored numerous books to include the first “cosmetic” book, cured epidemic diseases, became the hope of poor people as their “miracle doctor”— is recalled today as an “occultist, fortune teller” and known for his so-called doomsday prophecies.
Under the very risky conditions for a scientist of the sixteenth century, Nostradamus used his knowledge and abilities to heal people, spent sleepless nights and tiring days without any material financial expectation. I respectfully give tribute to this great master: “Forgive us Master Michel. We belong to the twenty-first century and our popular culture only needs the doomsday prophecies. This is why we are only interested in your quatrains and can only manage this much.”
Ah, and whether his prophecies proved to be accurate or not, I have no idea and actually, I do not care; so, I modestly leave this subject to the prophecy-interpreting specialists.

Burak Eldem