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Bickerstaff’s Predictions    (April Fool's Day - 1708)


In early 1708, a previously unknown London astrologer named Isaac Bickerstaff published an almanac in which he predicted the death by fever of the famous rival astrologer John Partridge on March 29 of that year. Partridge indignantly denied the prediction, but on March 30 Bickerstaff released a pamphlet announcing that he had been correct: Partridge was dead. It took a day for the news to settle in, but soon everyone had heard of the astrologer's demise. And so, on April 1st the joke came to full fruition (suggesting it was a deliberate April Fool joke) when Partridge was woken by a sexton outside his window wanting to know if there were any orders for his funeral sermon. Bickerstaff, it turned out, was a pseudonym for the satirist Jonathan Swift. His prognosticatory prank worked so well that Partridge was eventually forced to stop publishing almanacs, unable to shake his reputation as the man whose death had been foretold.


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