Born in Saint-Rémy de Provence, in the south of France, he was the son of a merchant. He was Jewish by birth but raised a Roman Catholic. He studied medicine in Montpellier and was an apothecary. Then he established practice and practised medicine in time of the plague. He travelled through France and Italy many times, or was forced to move to new places. He wrote almanacs (first in 1550) under the name Nostradamus. His series of prophetic verses are purported to represent future events.
Biographical accounts of Nostradamus' life states that he was afraid of being persecuted for heresy by the Inquisition. This inspired him to write his a series of prophecies. These verses have been interpreted differently by different annotators through the years. Many books have been written based on these various interpretations, though the different "readings" of his material have varied wildly from one publication to the next. One skeptical analysis is that he used a series of simple encryption methods, including backward writing interspersed with different languages.
Followers and supporters of Nostradamus' prophecies have credited him with predicting an amazing number of events in world history. His writings have supposedly predicted the French Revolution, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, World War II, Adolf Hitler, and many other events in history. Critics, however, state that many of these predictions stem from using hindsight to adapt Nostradamus' works to current events, thus making it seem as if he had "predicted" various events.
One of the most famous Nostradamus predictions was frequently interpreted as a prophecy that a great disaster or event would occur in July of the year 1999, and this disaster would supposedly take place in New York City. When July came and went in 1999 without any world-shattering event occurring, scholars of his writings began re-interpreting the prophecy in an attempt to determine its "true" meaning.
Nostradamus' writings have frequently been misquoted and in some instances, even deliberately altered in order to "prove" that he supposedly predicted various events.