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  • 8/20/2005

Franz Rosenthal

(1915- April, 8, 2003 in Branford, Connecticut)

Professor Franz Rosenthal was an eminent interpreter of Arabic literature and Islamic religion and a leading scholar of Aramaic.
Professor Rosenthal was born inBerlin, Germany. He entered the University of Berlin in 1932, where he studied classics and oriental languages and civilizations. He received his Ph.D. in 1935, with a dissertation on Palmyrenian inscriptions, published the following year. After teaching for a year inFlorence,Italy, he became instructor at the Lehranstalt (formerly Hochschule) für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, a rabbinical seminary inBerlin. In 1938, he completed his history of Aramaic studies, which was awarded the Lidzbarski Medal and Prize.

In 1938, Professor Rosenthal leftGermany and went to Sweden, where he was invited through the offices of the Swedish historian of religions H.S. Nyberg. From there he went toEngland and eventually came to the United States in 1940, having received an invitation to join the faculty of the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1943, he published a monograph on as-Sarakhsi, became aU.S. citizen and was inducted into the U.S. Army as a cook. After basic training, he joined the Office of Strategic Services inWashington,D.C.

Following the war, he returned to academia, first at HUC and then in 1948 moved to theUniversity ofPennsylvania. In 1956, he was appointed the Louis M. Rabinowitz Professor of Semitic Languages at Yale. He became a Sterling Professor in 1967 and emeritus in 1985.

Professor Rosenthal was a prolific scholar whose publications ranged from a monograph on "Humor in Early Islam" to a three-volume annotated translation of the "Muqaddimah" of Ibn Khaldun to a "Grammar of Biblical Aramaic." His 1952 "History of Muslim Historiography" was the first study of this enormous subject. He wrote extensively on Islamic civilization, including "The Muslim Concept of Freedom," "The Classical Heritage in Islam," "The Herb: Hashish versus Medieval Muslim Society," "Gambling in Islam" and "Complaint and Hope in Medieval Islam," as well as three volumes of collected essays and two volumes of translations from the history of the medieval Arab historian at-Tabari. His books have been translated into Arabic, Russian and Turkish.

He held memberships in numerous professional organizations, such as the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, the American Philosophical Society, theAmerican Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Medieval Academy of America, the American Academy of Jewish Research, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome), the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, theBritishAcademy and the American Oriental Society. His many academic honors include the Giorgio Levi della Vida Medal and the Harvey Prize of theUniversity of Haifa, as well as honorary degrees from Hebrew Union College, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the University of Tübingen and Columbia University.

Taken from:

Yale U. Bulletin
Middle East Medievalists note
American Oriental Society's Note
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