Page 102 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
philosophical system, strongly influenced the progress of free
thought in Europe. Without this mediating function of Jews as
translators, these achievements may not have been possible; at
best, they would have been considerably delayed. In mathematics,
too, this was found to be true. The exertions of Jews were largely
responsible for the introduction of vital changes in the foundations
of European mathematics. In dealing with these and other
aspects of Jewish cultural activities, Steinschneider demonstrated
that the Jews, despite the restrictions imposed on them in Christian
lands, enacted a notable part in the culture of the Western world
during the Middle Ages.
Joseph Jacobs correctly pointed out (
Jewish Contributions to
Civilization
, 1919, p. 197) that “ it is doubtful whether mediaeval
England or Germany could have contributed such a list of math­
ematicians and astronomers up to the year 1500 as is given in
Miss (Adeline) Goldberg’s index to Steinschneider’s
Mathematik
bei den Juden
(Frankfort, 1901), running to 252 names, though
mediaeval Englishmen were probably five times, and mediaeval
Germans ten times, as numerous as the European Jews of the
Middle Ages.” Steinschneider’s list of Jewish physicians is for­
midable; it embraces 2,168 names of Jews, known to have prac­
ticed medicine during the years intervening between the Dark
Ages and the eighteenth century. As Steinschneider affirms in his
monumental work on the
Mediaeval Hebrew Translations
(Berlin,
1893), the Jews contributed greatly to the expansion of man’s
intellectual and cultural horizons everywhere.
If and when these contributions are gathered in book form, its
author will find Steinschneider’s works an admirable guide for
the primary sources on which the story will be built. Stein­
schneider himself seems to have been averse to putting the results
of his vast researches into suitable shape for popular comprehension
and appreciation. With few exceptions, he refrained from summing
up his findings. Virtually all his writings represent mere lists,
perhaps somewhat dry, but of inestimable value to any one seeking
knowledge of the subjects with which he dealt. Joseph Jacobs
endeavored to make the most of Steinschneider’s researches, but
was not sure of his effort. Without them, however, he would have
been unable to appraise the contributions Jews made to civiliza­
tion. He expressed the dilemma of many a scholar “ lost” in
Steinschneider’s lists: “ I have had great difficulty in getting at
the real value of Jewish contributions from his drier-than-dust
annals. Where the forest is difficult to view on account of the
trees, one can only attempt to locate the forest in its connection
with the larger world” (
Jewish Contributions to Civilization
, p. 140).