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January 10, 1996

Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society

Author Affiliations

Newton, Mass

JAMA. 1996;275(2):159-160. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530260073040

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Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe, by David B. Ruderman, 392 pp, $30, ISBN 0-300-06112-9, New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press, 1995.

For more than a century, medieval Jewish physicians have been the object of scholarly inquiry. The Jews and Medicine, Harry Friedenwald's still valuable work published 50 years ago, chronicled the careers of hundreds of Jewish physicians who lived during the Middle Ages. By his time, Jewish doctors had been brought into focus as a curious social anomaly. They came from a religious community that was ghetto confined, despised, feared, and persecuted; they were prohibited by law from treating Christians and excluded from medical schools until the 16th century. Nevertheless, Jews were called often to attend popes, kings, and other notables, because they were considered to be especially skilled in the art of cure.

The affinity of medieval Jews for medicine was thought to have resulted