home articles forum events
glossary horary quiz consultations links more

This text is extracted from Biographical Dictionary of Western Astrologers by James Herschel Holden M.A. (pp.619-620)


A brief biography of Vivian Robson by James H. Holden

 pdf (300 KB)   Click here to go to Dave Roell's detailed account of Robson's career as a geological curator and astrologer

Robson, Vivian E(rwood) B.Sc. (1890-1942)

(Birmingham 26 May 1890 11:56 AM - 31 Dec 1942)

A well-known English astrologer who combined a practical knowledge of mathematics and astronomy with a thorough knowledge of traditional astrology. He read French, German, and Latin and was learned in medieval and Renaissance astrology. His books were popular on both sides of the Atlantic and most of them also appeared in American editions. The books on Elections, the Radix System, and the Fixed Stars are still considered to be the prime English-language authorities on those subjects.

His book Astrology and Sex is an exhaustive treatment of the subject containing much detailed information that he assembled from a variety of sources. It is interesting to note his testimonial to the efficacy of the use of derived houses in natal chart interpretation (pp. 143-47). He mentions the French astrologer Eudes Picard (1867-1932) and was evidently familiar with his Astrologie judiciaire, which treats derived houses in great detail. This puts Robson in the same camp with J. B. Morin in opposition to those English astrologers, such as A. J. Pearce, who opposed the use of this "horary method" in natal astrology (because it was not mentioned by Claudius Ptolemy).

Following the death of Alan Leo in 1917, Robson became Editor of Modern Astrology, but quit after some years because of difficulties he encountered in working for Mrs. Leo.1 Beginning in the 1920s he wrote several books of lasting importance (listed below).

Robson wrote two papers on the chart for the signing of the American Declaration of Independence. These were published in the August and October 1932 issues of the British Journal of Astrology. They cited the chart for American Independence contained in Ebenezer Sibly's book A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences (London, 1785), for which see the color facsimile in Louis McNeice, Astrology (London, 1864), p. 175. The chart is a Horary chart set for a certain time, namely 10:10 PM at London. Robson recalculated the chart as being set for 9:50PM LMT (=9:54 PM LAT), but perhaps Sibly made an error in calculating it. Robson inferred that Sibly had information that the signing took place in Philadelphia at 5:10PM, and he simply added 5 hours to that time to get the equivalent time at London. Robson's papers were cited by Ralph Kraum in Astrological Americana (Washington: A.F.A., Inc., 1949), pp. 3-5, with a chart set for 4:50 PM at Philadelphia. A very similar chart was proposed 25 years later by Dane Rudhyar, but without any acknowledgment of Kraum's or Robson's writings. Recent historical research by astrologer Gary Noel indicates that the signing apparently took place at around mid-morning on July 4th. (See the entry for Dane Rudhyar for further information).

  • See American Astrology Magazine, Nov 1943, pp. 19-22 for a biographical sketch by Dorothy Ryan. See also James Herschel Holden: A History of Horoscopic Astrology (Tempe, Az.: A.F.A., Inc., 1996), pp. 198-199 and 233-234; 2nd ed. 2006, pp. 210, 245, 248).

Robson's chart and publications

A Beginner's Guide to Practical Astrology.
London: T. Weiner Laurie, 1931.
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, n.d. [1940?]
New York: Samuel Weiser, 1976. repr.

Astrology and Sex.
Philadelphia: W Foulsham Co., 1941.

A Student's Textbook of Astrology.
London: Cecil Palmer, 1922. 1st ed. Viii, 243 pp. 8vo.
Philadelphia: J,B. Lippincott, n.d. [1940?]

Electional Astrology.
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1937. 227 pp. 8vo.

The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology.
London: Cecil Palmer, 1923. 1st ed. 264 pp. 8vo.
London: Cecil Palmer, 1928. 2nd ed.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1931. [3rd ed.]
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, [1940?]. repr. 264 pp. 8vo.

The Radix System.
London: Stallex Publ. Co., [1930] III pp. 8vo.
[also discusses Minor Directions (Tertiary etc.)]
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, n.d. [1940?]
Toledo, Ohio: Darr Publs, 1974. repr.

Robson_chart (12K)

  1 Astrology bibliophile, Philip Graves, has filled out some details on this event, based on his expert knowledge of the publications of that period. He explains:

Initially, Alfred Barley (sub-editor under Alan Leo) took over as acting editor (see p. 290 in Modern Astrology, 1917 volume, October issue; p. 321, November issue; p. 354, December issue; and p. 1 in the 1918 volume, January issue).

Barley announces in January 1918 his decision to quit:
"I have decided, after full consideration, to sever entirely my connection wiith the business enterprise known as "Modern Astrology" Office on and from the first of January".

Barley also announces at this point that Bessie Leo and Major C. G. M. Adam will be the joint editors of the magazine thereafter. This arrangement is confirmed in the February 1918 issue (p. 38). In the June issue (p. 165) it is confirmed still to be in place despite the editors' names no longer being printed in each issue. This is reaffirmed again in the August issue (p. 233).

Major Adam announces his resignation from the editorship of the magazine in the October 1918 issue (p. 294), explaining that too many complaints had been received regarding the change in editorial line since Alan Leo's death for his position at the helm to be tenable: he writes:

" is obvious that much of the occult teaching which has been given during the last few months has been misunderstood, perverted, trampled in the mire, and made into an excuse for scandal".

In the November 1918 issue, Bessie Leo announces her appointment of Vivian Robson to fill the vacancy left by C. G. M. Adam: he is to join her as co-editor.

We then find a pattern in which most of the 'Editor's Observatory' editorials are written and signed by 'Mrs. Alan Leo' but a few are signed by V. E. R. (Robson). This shows that Robson was very much subservient to Bessie Leo.

The August 1929 issue is the last in which the editorial is partly signed by Robson. In the October 1929 issue (p. 289), Bessie Leo tersely announces:

"With this issue the work of Mr. Robson for Modern Astrology terminates. He is neither on the Office Staff, nor Co-Editor of the magazine, therefore all communications must in future be addressed to Mrs. Alan Leo...".

It is not difficult to infer that they had some kind of a falling out from the manner of her announcement, but I would be most interested to know whether James Holden has been able to unearth some more particular facts - as to whether Robson resigned or was sacked, and in what circumstances. back to text


© James Herschel Holden; 2013.

Contact Deborah Houlding  | terms and conditions  
All rights on all text and images reserved. Reproduction by any means is not permitted without the express
agreement of Deborah Houlding or in the case of articles by guest astrologers, the copyright owner indictated