337 Cohen Hall
Matt Goldish, Ohio State University
"The Scientific Commitments of London's Chief Rabbi at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century"
Abstract: David Nieto (1654-1728) arrived in London in 1701 to serve as Hakham (chief rabbi) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community of that city. He was (as our own David Ruderman has shown) fascinated by science, and his writing on almost every subject eventually turned to that topic. He appears to be the perfect fit for Newtonian England, where the successes of science and the prestige of the Royal Society were everywhere acclaimed. We might expect Hakham Nieto, then, to create a Jewish version of the physico-theology that was widespread among his Latitudinarian Christian colleagues (and described cogently by Margaret Jacob), but this did not happen. We will explore the nature of Nieto's scientific commitments and ideas in order to get a sense of why Nieto did not create such a legacy.