Kraus, Paul Eliezer

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KRAUS, PAUL ELIEZER (1904–1944), Orientalist and historian of science. Born in Prague, Kraus went in 1922 to Ereẓ Israel. After a time on a kibbutz, he studied at the newly founded School of Oriental Studies of the Hebrew University. In 1927 he went to Berlin University and obtained a doctorate for an edition of Altbabylonische Briefe aus der vorderasiatischen Abteilung der Preussischen Staatsmuseen zu Berlin (Mitteilungen der vorderasiatischaegyptischen Gesellschaft, 35–36, 1931–32). At the same time he published "Ausgrabungen und Funde" in the German Encyclopaedia Judaica (vol. 3 (1929), 701–34). Appointed assistant to the Forschungsinstitut fuer Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften in Berlin in 1929, he made the major discovery that the corpus of writings attributed to the Arab alchemist Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (eighth century) was in fact the work of a group of Isma'ili sectarians of the tenth century who supported the rise of the *Fatimid dynasty of Egypt. In 1933 Kraus went to Paris and cooperated with L. Massignon in the latter's research into the mystic martyr al-Ḥallāj (executed 922). In 1935 he published a collection of Jābir texts in Arabic. The following year he accepted a post in Cairo, though a lectureship at the Hebrew University was simultaneously offered to him. In Cairo he published two volumes of his magnum opus: Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, contribution à l'histoire des idées scientifiques dans l'Islam (Mémoires de l'Institut d'Egypte, 44–45, 1942–43); the third volume, which was to deal with the place of Jābir in Islamic religious thought, remained unwritten, owing to the author's death by suicide. Kraus's work caused a revolution not only in the history of alchemy, but in that of Islamic science in general. Other works of his were: Abū Bakr ar-Rāzī, Opera philosophica, 1 (1939); Das Kitāb az-Zumurrud des Ibn ar-Rāwendī (Rivista degli Studi Orientali, 14, 1934); Galenus; Compendium Timaei Platonis (with R. Walzer, 1951); Galenus, kitāb al-akhlāq (de moribus), 1939; Epître de Bērūnī contenant le répertoire des ouvrages de Muḥammad b. Zakarīyā al-Rāzī (1936).


H.J. Lewy, in: Moznayim, 5 (1945); Ch. Kuentz, in: Bulletin de l'Institut d'Egypte, 27 (1946), 431–41 (with bibl.).