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The Gauquelin Controversy

January 9, 2011

By John Anthony West (As summarized by Maria Mateus from The Case For Astrology)   

Michel Gauquelin was a graduate in statistics and psychology from the Sorbonne who, together with his wife Francoise, conducted the most significant body of statistical research in astrology to date. While his work does not substantiate some canons of traditional astrology, it conclusively vindicates astrology’s fundamental premise: that there is a relationship between the planets’ positions at the moment of birth and the direction of individual lives.

The body of Gauquelin’s work extends over a period of 23 years (1949 –1973) and involved research into questions of professional studies, heredity studies and character trait studies. By far the studies receiving the most notoriety involved correlations between the [position of a planet in the natal chart and a person’s chosen profession. Because of its extremely significant positive results, the most famous of these studies is commonly known as “the Mars effect.”

Gauquelin’s preliminary profession findings involved two studies: the one comprised of a group of 576 birth charts revealed a correlation of Mars and Saturn with physicians at a chance level in the millions to one. The second study involving 508 births revealed the same results for other professions correlating them with their traditionally related planets: Mars with athletes, Saturn with scientists, the Moon with writers, and Jupiter with actors and politicians. Those findings only applied to eminent professionals and were not present in the charts of average professionals. The significance level for some of these correlations was also in the millions to one chance level. The research was published in 1955 in L‘influence des Astres, where Michel argued that what he was demonstrating was not evidence of astrology, but some other celestial influence. This work was ignored by his academic colleagues until Michel set about seeking professional peer review.

The Skeptics Respond

After much cajoling by Gauquelin for a peer review, the 1st critique came from Marcel Boll, a well-known French science writer and member of the Belgian Committee for the Investigation of Paranormal Phenomena (The Belgian Para Committee hereafter). His main objection was that the study used only birth data from France, which he claimed resulted in a national fluke. Had Gauquelin selected birth records from other countries, went Boll’s logic, the results would be no better than chance! Any statistician would know that this objection was statistically ridiculous.

Professor Dauvillier, a Professor of Cosmic Physics at the College of France, replied that the correlation was a result of insufficient sample size.

Gauquelin Answers

Michel answered both challenges (even though the first was an illogical criticism) by collecting a database of 25,000 birth records in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. (England did not record birth times back then). The results of the replication study with European data were identical and just as significant, showing the same planets in key sectors of the chart correlating with eminence in specific professions. There were some national variations but the result repeated significantly in the same direction as the original studies. A control group of non-specialized professions did not show any affect. The European studies were published in 1960 in Les Hommes et les Artre at the Gauquelin’s own cost.

The Heredity Studies

During the 1960s, the Gauquelins conducted another massive study that examined astrological relationships between parents and their children. The 30,000 size sample of ordinary French citizens and their children revealed that when parents had certain planets in Sectors 1 and 4 of the charts, their children were also likely to have the same planets in the same sectors. The correlations between particular planets – such as the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – were stronger in that order. The significance level was 1 million to 1. Induced or Caesarean births did not show this pattern.

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About the author

With Jan Gerhard Toonder, historian John Anthony West authored The Case for Astrology, a definitive history of astrology from ancient times to the modern era. He also has written books and documentaries on ancient Egypt, including the Serpent in the Sky and The Travelers’ Key to Ancient Egypt.

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