Broughton, Luke Dennis

Broughton, Luke Dennis

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Luke Dennis Broughton, a leader in the astrology revival of the late nineteenth century, was born on April 20, 1828, in Leeds, England. At a time when astrology was unpopular, his family continued to practice it. This custom originated with his grandfather, a doctor who used Nicolas Culpepper’s herbal compendium (Culpepper’s English Physician and Herbal Remedies, originally published in 1652), which correlated astrological signs with medicinal herbs. Luke Broughton’s father, also a physician, followed in his father’s footsteps, and Luke, in turn, followed his father. Mark Broughton, Luke’s older brother, headed an astrological society in Leeds and published an almanac as well as an ephemeris (a table indicating planetary positions). After arriving in America, Mark Broughton initiated an astrological periodical, Broughton’s Monthly Horoscope.

Luke Broughton married at age 24 and moved to the United States two years later. He intended to follow his family’s medical occupation. Settling in Philadelphia, he worked as a weaver and later as a laboratory technician while as a student at Eclectic Medical College. (Eclecticism was a school of medicine based on such natural remedies as Culpepper’s herbs.) After his brother’s magazine ceased publication in 1860, Luke initiated Broughton’s Planet Reader and Astrological Journal, which was published until 1869.

Antiastrology laws were passed in Philadelphia not long after Luke Broughton began his journal. It is not known whether these laws were prompted, in whole or in part, by Broughton’s public astrology activity. In 1863, he moved his medical office to New York City, where he continued to practice astrology. After the Civil War, Broughton began renting a lecture hall and speaking regularly on astrology. Experiencing marked success in his lectures, he opened an office devoted completely to astrology and began dividing his time between medicine and the science of the stars. Broughton also trained astrologers, and most of the important astrologers of the early twentieth century were his students. He also distributed British astrological literature, including the technical works necessary for erecting astrological charts. He wrote Remarks on Astrology and Astromedical Botany (1880) as well as several texts, including Planetary Influence (1893) and The Elements of Astrology (1898).

As evidenced by the antiastrology laws adopted in Philadelphia, the astrological revival brought controversy in its wake, and Broughton situated himself in the middle of it. While he denounced astrologers he thought were incompetent or in error, he was also an outspoken defender of astrology. He served as an expert witness in cases where astrologers were arrested for telling fortunes. Broughton taught thousands of astrologers and was a pivotal individual in making astrology a widely practiced art in the United States. He died in 1898, and his daughter carried on his New York practice. Several of his sons also became astrologers.

Sources:

Broughton, Luke Dennis. The Elements of Astrology. New York: The author, 1898.
Broughton, Luke Dennis. Planetary Influence. New York: The author, 1893.
Broughton, Luke Dennis. Remarks on Astrology and Astromedical Botany.
Culpepper’s English Physician and Herbal Remedies. North Hollywood, CA: Wilshire Book Co., 1971.
Holden, James H., and Robert A. Hughes. Astrological Pioneers of America. Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 1988.
Melton, J. Gordon. New Age Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.