Kristeller, Paul Oskar

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KRISTELLER, PAUL OSKAR (1905–1999), scholar of Renaissance thought. Kristeller was born in Berlin and received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg (1928). In 1934 he left Germany for Italy, where he taught in Florence and Pisa. When the antisemitic laws were passed, Kristeller fled to the U.S., and taught at Columbia (from 1939; professor, 1956–76). He served as president of the Renaissance Society of America and of the Medieval Academy of America. After he retired from teaching, he continued his scholarly endeavors as Columbia University's F.J.E. Woodbridge Professor of Philosophy Emeritus.

Regarded by many as the foremost authority on Renaissance thought and philosophy, Kristeller did his major work in the study and interpretation of Italian humanistic thought of the Renaissance, and in locating and cataloging the available published and manuscript sources of the period. He played an important role in encouraging and directing basic research into Renaissance thought. His own studies have been of great significance in reinterpreting the thinkers and movements of the time. His bibliographical work on the source materials is invaluable. On Jewish subjects, Kristeller wrote on *Steinschneider, on *Pico della Mirandola's Jewish interests, and was concerned with questions about Judah *Abrabanel.

In 1984, at age 78, he was named a MacArthur Fellow – the second oldest recipient of the award at that time. In 1989, he received the American Historical Association's Award for Scholarly Distinction. In 1995, Columbia commended his lifelong scholarly achievements with the Nicholas Murray Butler Cold Medal, which is given every five years to an individual who has made a distinguished contribution in philosophy or education.

Among Kristeller's important publications are The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino (1943), Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters (1956), Latin Manuscript Books before 1600 (1960), Renaissance Thought (2 vols., 1961–65), Iter Italicum, A Finding List of Uncatalogued or Incompletely Catalogued Humanistic Manuscripts of the Renaissance in Italian and other Libraries (2 vols., 1965–67), History: The Last Things before the Last (with S. Kracauer, 1969), Medieval Aspects of Renaissance Learning (1974), Renaissance Thought and Its Sources (1979), Renaissance Thought and the Arts (1990), and Greek Philosophers of the Hellenistic Age (1993).

[Richard H. Popkin /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]