Saturday, December 13, 2008

Biography of Tobias Cohen (1652–1729)

Almost everything we know about Tobias Cohen is gleaned from his own book. One of the most recent accounts of Tobias and Ma’aseh Tuviyah is that of David Ruderman in his book: Jewish thought and scientific discovery in early modern Europe.
Tobias was born in Metz in 1652, into a learned Jewish family. His grandfather, Eleazar Cohen, emigrated from Safed (then in the Ottoman province of Damascus), to settle in Cracow (Poland), where he studied medicine. His father, Moses, was both a physician and a rabbi. He immigrated to France at the onset of the persecutions instigated by the Cossack leader Bogdan Chmielnicki in 1648. Following the death of his father, when he was nine years old, Tobias was sent back to Cracow, where he received a traditional Jewish education.
At the age of twenty-five, accompanied by his friend Gabriel Felix of Brody, Tobias went to study medicine at Frankfurt-on-Oder. Soon, however, the discrimination the two friends suffered drove them to abandon Frankfurt for a more open university: that of Padua, near Venice (Italy). In Padua they attended the preparatory school for Jewish medical students founded by Solomon Conegliano (1642–1719)—himself a graduate of the city’s medical university. Tobias and Gabriel obtained their doctorates in medicine and philosophy at Padua in 1683, and Tobias went on to become a physician at the Sultan’s court, residing at Adrianople and Constantinople (present-day Edirne and Istanbul respectively), before retiring to Jerusalem in 1715, where he lived until his death in 1729.
This family saga, from Safed to Poland, France, Italy, the Ottoman empire, and finally Jerusalem, resembles the experiences of many European Jewish savants of the early modern period. European conflicts—such as the intellectual and cultural challenges that marked the development of new sciences in a period of uncertainty and constant change—resonate in Tobias’ work.

No comments:

Post a Comment