Abraham bar Hiyya Ha-Nasi

Born: 1070 in Barcelona, Spain
Died: 1136 in Provence, France

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Abraham bar Hiyya was a Spanish Jewish mathematician and astronomer. His name is Hebrew for 'the prince' but he is also known by the Latin name Savasorda which comes from his 'job description' showing that he held an official position in the administration in Barcelona.

Abraham bar Hiyya is famed for his book Hibbur ha-Meshihah ve-ha-Tishboret (Treatise on Measurement and Calculation), translated into Latin as Liber embadorum in 1145. This book is the earliest Arab algebra written in Europe. It contains the complete solution of the general quadratic and is the first text in Europe to give such a solution.

He also wrote Yesod ha-Tebunah u-Migdal ha-Emunah (The Foundation of Understanding and the Tower of Faith). This work is an encyclopaedia of mathematics, astronomy, optics and music. It is the first encyclopaedia in the Hebrew language.

Abraham also wrote on the form of the Earth and the calculation of the courses of the stars. His book Tables of the Prince refer to the tables of al'Battani.

Abraham's treatise Sefer ha-Ibbur (Book of Intercalation) is the first Hebrew work devoted exclusively to a study of the calendar.

The philosophical treatise Hegyon ha-Nefesh ha-Azuva (Meditation of the Sad Soul) deals with the nature of good and evil and ethics. Megillat ha-Megalleh (Scroll of the Revealer) outlines Abraham's view of history based on astrology. It claims to forecast the messianic future.

References (3 books/articles)

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JOC/EFR January 1997