cover image Maimonides


Sherwin B. Nuland, . . Schocken/Nextbook, $19.95 (233pp) ISBN 978-0-8052-4200-3

Maimonides, one of the preeminent personalities of medieval Jewish history, was a jurist, philosopher, expert in Jewish law, physician at the court of Saladin and a respected and dedicated communal leader. Given all that, it's difficult to understand the decision to present Maimonides's legacy primarily through the lens of his work as a physician. The 12th century was a time of stagnation in the history of medicine, and the author himself concedes that Maimonides contributed very little that was new or innovative to the field. By contrast, his jurisprudential magnum opus , the Mishne Torah , constituted a groundbreaking work in its own day and continues to be authoritative almost a millennium later. Although Nuland acknowledges this in a chapter on Maimonides's religious scholarship, it is dwarfed by the overarching concern with medicine—which seems the primary interest of Nuland, a clinical professor of surgery at Yale. The author does a serviceable job of stitching together this slight, popular biography of the larger-than-life Maimonides, but his writing is marred by an overwrought prologue and some glib generalizations. (Oct.)