John Dee (13th July 1527–1608/1609) was an English Occultist, Magician, navigator, mathematician, astronomer, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth 1st. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy. John Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable. One of the most learned men of his age, he had been invited to lecture on advanced algebra at the University of Paris while still in his early twenties. Dee was an ardent promoter of mathematics and a respected astronomer, as well as a leading expert in navigation, witchcraft did having trained many of those who would conduct many of England’s voyages of discovery.
Reginald Scot (or Scott) (c. 1538 – 9th October 1599) was an English country gentleman and Member of Parliament, now remembered as the author of The Discoverie of Witchcraft, which was published in 1584. It was written against the belief in witches, witchcraft didnot exist. Part of its content exposes how (apparently miraculous) feats of magic were done, and the book is often deemed the first textbook on conjuring.
John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917) Was the first in a famous family of British magicians. Maskelyne, first with George A. Cooke and later with David Devant, dominated the magical scene for almost fifty years. Even now, many old-time theatre goers remember the performances he put on at the Egyptian Hall and St George’ Hall in London.
Jasper Maskelyne(1902–1973) was a British Stage Magician in the 1930s and 1940s. He was one of an established family of stage magicians, the son of Nevil Maskelyneand a grandson of John Nevil Maskelyne. He could also trace his ancestry to the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne. He is most remembered, however, for the accounts of his work for British military intelligence during the Second World War, creating large-scale ruses, deception, and camouflage. Before the Second World War Maskelyne was a “blaster” in the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, a charitable parody of the Freemasons that operated from 1926-31. His lodge (called a Vat) ran from Maskelyne’s Theatre.
David Devant (22nd February 1868 – 13th October 1941) Possibly the greatest of English Magicians was David Devant whose partnership with J. N. Maskelyne is still recalled with fondness by old-time theatre goers. He often performed an effect with a magic kettle which produced a seemingly endless flow of different drinks. When The Magic Circle, the most famous magical society in the world was formed in 1905, David Devant became its first president.
David Nixon (29th December 1919 – 1st December 1978) was the most famous magician in Britain while I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was famous for almost forty years following his first television appearance as a panelist on “What’s My Line?” in 1952 Britains best-loved magician. Two years later in 1954, he began a television series, “It’s Magic” and continued to baffle viewers with many other series in the many years that followed.
Thomas Frederick “Tommy” Cooper(19th March 1921 – 15th April 1984) was a very popular British magician. While growing up in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s Tommy Cooper was one of my favourite Comedian and Magician. He was a member of Magic Circle and respected by traditional magicians. Famed for his red fez, his appearance was large and lumbering at 6 feet 4 inches. I remember his last performance Live on TV when he collapsed during his routine to gales of laughter from the audience – it was probably how he would like to have gone out – with the laughter of the audience in his ears.
Robert Harbin (14th February 1909 -12th January 1978) was a British Magician and writer. He is noted as the inventor of a number of classic illusions, including the incredible illusion “The Zig Zag Lady” which he invented and has since become a classic of magic. A girl enters a cabinet and her head, midriff and foot are visible at all times. in spite of this, the magician manages to push her middle section to one side, dividing the lady into three parts!
P. T. Selbit (1881 – 1938) was an English magician credited with being the first person to perform the illusion of sawing a woman in half.
Derren Victor Brown (born 27th February 1971) is an English magician, illusionist, mentalist, painter and sceptic. Whilst an undergraduate, he started working as a conjuror, practising the traditional skills of close-up magic. In 1992, he started performing stage hypnosis shows under the stage name Darren V. Brown. Shortly after, he was commissioned to do a pilot for his Channel 4 television series, Mind Control and since then he has become one of the best-known magicians in the UK.
Ali Bongo (8th December 1929 – 8th March 2009) was Born William Oliver Wallace and was a British Comedy magician, and president of The Magic Circle who performed an act in which he was known as the “Shriek of Araby”. Ali Bongo’s act was fast and furious, but most of the audience enjoying his crazy cavorting on stage do not realise that theDerren Victor Brownre is a magical genius behind that mask of zaniness. His public image was of a mad magician but Ali Bongo was also the inventive creator of many of the magical effects seen on television magic shows and commercials in the 1950’s and up to his death in 2009.
As an addendum, I thought I would also add the story of the founding of the Magic Circle in London, England in 1905. At the beginning, there were twenty-three amateur and professional magicians who gathered together at London’s Pinoli’s Restaurant with the goal of forming a magic club. The result was the founding of The Magic Circle. David Devant, the greatest magician of his era, became the first President of The Magic Circle and the Society grew rapidly and prospered. To date there are over 1500 members worldwide. For of my articles on magic, Ghosts and Hauntings please visit my website at: http://fabarticles.yolasite.com