Vecinho, Joseph

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VECINHO, JOSEPH (end of 15th century), scientist and physician to King John ii of Portugal (1481–95). A pupil of Abraham *Zacuto, he translated his teacher's tables into Spanish, and his translation, Almanach Perpetuum, published in Leiria in 1496 by Samuel d'Ortas, a Jew, became the basis for the Hebrew version of Zacuto's work. Along with the voyager and cosmographer Martin Behaim and the then court physician Rodrigo, he participated in a commission on navigation, concerned especially with improving the techniques for establishing direction and location at sea. Through his improvements in the nautical astrolabe, Vecinho gave a boost to Portuguese maritime activity. Vecinho sat on the commission when it rejected Columbus' request for a westward journey to the Indies on the grounds that it was a chimera. However Vecinho gave Columbus a copy of his translation of Zacuto's tables, which the discoverer found useful and carried with him.


M. Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal (1867), 86, 123; idem, Christopher Columbus and the Participation of the Jews in the Spanish and Portuguese Discoveries (1907), index; C. Roth, in: jqr, 27 (1936), 233–6; C. Singer, in: Legacy of Israel (1927), 242–3.

[Martin A. Cohen]