PLESSNER, MARTIN


PLESSNER, MARTIN (Meir; 1900–1973), Orientalist. Plessner, born in Breslau, was the great-grandson of Solomon Plessner (1797–1883), a prominent German Orthodox preacher and scholar. The classical heritage in *Islam and its influence on medieval Judaism was Martin Plessner's main scholarly interest. An assistant to H. Ritter in Hamburg, he edited a comprehensive work on magic which was wrongly attributed to Maslama al-Majrītī (Spain, d. 1004) but written about 50 years later (1933; Ger. tr. 1962). Plessner worked as assistant to J. Ruska at the Berlin Forschungsinstitut fuer Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften (1927–29), and in 1933 became lecturer in Semitics at Frankfurt University, leaving Germany for Palestine in 1933 to teach at the Reali secondary school in Haifa. There he wrote an Arabic grammar, the first in modern Hebrew. From 1945 he taught at the Ma'aleh school in Jerusalem, also working (from 1949) at the Jewish National and University Library, and later as librarian of the School of Oriental Studies of the Hebrew University, where he became an external teacher in 1952 and professor in 1955.

Among Plessner's other published work was his Hebrew edition (with J.J. Rivlin) of I. *Goldziher's lectures on Islam (HarẒa'ot al ha-Islam, 1951). One of his main achievements was the discovery that the alchemical "parliament," Turba Philosophorum, is based on the doxographical tradition about the pre-Socratic philosophers, thus establishing a new chronology and evaluation of early Arabic alchemy.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.