Lawyer and engineer Jacob Acontius was born Jacopo Aconcio around 1520 in Trento. After studing law, he entered the service of Francesco Landriano, one of Charles V’s courtiers, before acting as secretary to the Imperial governor in Milan, Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo. Having revolted against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, he found exile in Switzerland and Strasbourg (1557/8), before seeking refuge in England under Elizabeth I in 1559.
In London, he joined the Dutch Church at Austin Friars. Although a lawyer by training, his real passion was engineering. As such, he was naturalised and employed by the authorities in the draining of Plumpstead marshes in Greenwich. As a theologian, he preached tolerance in a time of religious conflict. He developed challenging ideas in his Stratagematum satanae libri octo (1565) which was translated into various languages (an English translation did not appear until 1647). Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, was an important patron to him. Acontius died about 1566.