Editor: Gad Freudenthal
Publisher:  Cambridge University Press – 547 pages
Book Review by: Nano Khilnani

This book provides an overview of the scientific and other contributions of medieval Jewish people  to the world’s vast body of knowledge.

There few, if any known books out there (that we’re aware of) that have put together the contributions of people of Hebrew and Jewish origin, to bodies of knowledge in these and related disciplines: astrology, astronomy, biology, culture (and the knowledge of various cultures, such a Arabic, Latin, and others), languages and linguistics, logic, mathematics, medicine, meteorology, philosophy, physics, psychology, and other fields of knowledge.

Twenty-one specialists on Jewish culture – from France, Granada, Israel, Italy, the Middle East, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States – contributed to this book, authoring its 24 chapters that we have itemized below to give you a sort of bird’s eye view of its contents:

Introduction: The History of Science in Medieval Jewish Cultures: Toward a definition of the Agenda

  1. Part I – The Greek-Arabic Scientific Tradition and Its Appropriation, Adaptation, and development in Medieval Jewish Cultures, East and West
  2. The Assimilation of Greco-Arabic Learning in Medieval Jewish Cultures: A Brief Bibliographic Introduction
  3. Medieval Hebrew Translations of Philosophic and Scientific Texts: A Chronological Table
  4. Arabic and Latin Cultures as resources for the Translation of Movement: Comparative Considerations, Both Quantitative and Qualitative
  5. The production of Hebrew Scientific Books According to Dated Medieval Manuscripts
  6. Part II – Individual Sciences As Studied and Practiced by Medieval Jews
  7. Logic in Medieval Jewish Culture
  8. Astronomy among Jews in the Middle Ages
  9. Interactions between Jewish and Christian Astronomers in the Iberian Peninsula
  10. The Hebrew Mathematics Culture (Twelfth-Sixteenth Centuries)
  11. Mathematical and Physical Optics in Medieval Jewish Scientific Thought
  12. The Evolution of the Genre of the Philosophical-Scientific Community
  13. Latin Scholastic Influences on Late Medieval Hebrew Physics The State of the Art
  14. Meteorology and Zoology in Medieval Hebrew Texts
  15. The Mental Faculties and the Psychology of Sleep and Dreams
  16. Toward a History of Hebrew Astrological Literature: A Bibliographical Survey
  17. Astrology in Medieval Jewish Thought (Twelfth-Fourteenth Centuries)
  18. Astral Magic and the Specific Properties (Segullot) in Medieval Jewish Thought: Non-Aristotelian Science and Theology
  19. Medicine Among Medieval Jews: The Science, the Art, and the Practice
  20. Alchemy in Medieval Jewish Cultures: A Noted Absence
  21. The Science of Language Among Medieval Jews
  22. Part III – Scientific Knowledge in Context
  23. Medieval Karaism and Science
  24. Science in the Jewish Communities of the Byzantine Cultural Orbit: New Perspectives
  25. Philosophy and Science in Medieval Jewish Commentaries on the Bible
  26. Kabbalah and Science in the Middle Ages: Preliminary Remarks
  27. History, Languages, and the Sciences in Medieval Spain



Gad Freudenthal is a Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the Centre National Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris and teaches in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Geneva.  He is the author and editor of several volumes on the history of science in antiquity and in the Middle Ages, especially in Jewish cultures. His most recent book is Science in the Medieval Hebrew and Arabic Traditions (2005). He is also editor of the journal Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and