Abraham bar-Hiya

(d. c. 1136)
   Spanish philosopher. Abraham spent his life in Barcelona, then a centre of learning and scientific activity. That he was a man of high standing can be deduced from the two titles customarily affixed to his name: ha-Nasi (‘the prince’), which shows that he held office in the Jewish community ; and savasorda, indicating that he was a functionary at court. His gifts as mathematician, astronomer and linguist made him of use in court circles. He was the first to write original philosophical and scientific works in Hebrew, and the first Jewish scientist to write a book on astronomy, ‘The Form of the Heavens and the Shape of the Earth’. He later wrote a treatise on the calendar, including astronomical tables. His philosophy can be found mainly in Heyon ha-Nefesh ha-Azuvah, (Meditation of the Sad Soul), which is ethical in emphasis and was perhaps designed to be read during the ten days of penitence, between the New Year and the Day of Atonement. Further philosophical elements can be found in the ‘Scroll of the Revealer’, an attempt to determine the end of time. Some of the ideas in this last work influenced Judah HALEVI and went beyond Jewish circles in translations into Latin and French. Because they were written in Hebrew rather than in the Arabic customary in Spain at that time, Abraham’s works had a wide circulation and endured. One of his mathematical works was translated into Latin by Plato of Tivoli, a gentile translator with whom Abraham collaborated, and in this way his work became known outside Jewish circles.
   There is some evidence that Abraham travelled to France. He is last mentioned by Plato of Tivoli in 1136 and is thought to have died in Spain in that year.

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

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