Zacuto, Abraham ben-Samuel

(1452–c. 1515)
   Astronomer and historian. Zacuto was a professor at the university in his home town of Salamanca and then in Saragossa. He wrote his first work on astronomy (1473–8) for the bishop of Salamanca. It was written in Hebrew and translated into Spanish and Latin. His astronomical tables, vital tools for navigators, were used by COLUMBUS. On the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Zacuto was appointed court astronomer to King John II of Portugal, serving his successor Manuel I in the same capacity. His advice was sought before Vasco da Gama’s expedition to the New World and Da Gama’s ships carried Zacuto’s metal astrolabe, the first of its kind. When Manuel I determined to convert the Jews of Portugal by force, Zacuto fled in 1497, and after a hazardous journey reached Tunis. There in 1504 he wrote his genealogical history of the Jews from the creation until 1500. While unhistorical by modern standards, the work is of great literary importance.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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