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STERN, ABRAHAM:

Polish inventor and educator; born at Hrubieszow, government of Lublin, 1769; died at Warsaw Feb. 3, 1842. He was the son of poor parents, and showed, while still very young, marked fondness for the study of Hebrew books, which inspired him with a love for philosophy and mathematics. Minister Stasitz, the owner of Hrubieszow, discovered the natural aptitude of young Stern and encouraged him to devote himself to the study of mathematics, Latin, and German, later sending him to Warsaw to continue his studies.

Abraham Stern.

The first result of Stern's inventive genius was a computing-machine, which he perfected in 1817, and which included a device for calculating the square roots of numbers. This invention attracted wide attention, and led to his being elected (1817) a member of the Warsaw Society of the Friends of Science. In 1816, and again in 1818, he was presented to Emperor Alexander I., who received him cordially and granted him an annual pension of 350 rubles, promising, in case of his death, to pay half of this sum to his widow. Encouraged by his friends, Stern invented a topographical wagon for the measurement of level surfaces, an invention of great value to both civil and military engineers. The committee appointed by the academy to examine this invention reported very favorably upon it. Stern rendered great services to agriculture by his improvements in the construction of thrashing and harvesting-machines, as well as by his invention of a new form of sickle. He invented also a device by which the danger of runaways could be eliminated by means of a detachable tongue and a brake.

Stern took an active interest in educational affairs. He accepted the post of inspector of Jewish schools and also that of censor; and the rabbinical school at Warsaw was organized according to the plan suggested by him. His official duties, however, did not prevent him from making contributions to Hebrew literature. He wrote an ode in honor of the coronation of Nicholas I., which appeared in Hebrew under the title "Rinnah u-Tefillah" and was translated into Polish by J. Gluegenberg (Warsaw, 1829). He wrote also "Shirim" (Hebrew poems), which appeared in the "Shire Musar Haskel" collection edited by Alex. Gazon (Warsaw, 1835). Besides his knowledge of Hebrew, Stern was well versed in Aramaic and Polish.

Stern always remained an Orthodox Jew; he wore a skull-cap in the presence of his eminent friends, and when staying in the castle of Adam Czartoriski a Jewish cook prepared his meals. Among his friends were Dibitz, Zabalkanski, Prince Novosilchev, and Prince Radziwill. Stern was the father-in-law of Ḥayyim Selig Slonimski, the editor of "Ha-Ẓefirah."

Bibliography:
  • Ha-Ẓefirah, 1876, No. 9;
  • Ha-Lebanon, 1872, Nos. 3, 4, 5;
  • Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 65;
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1842, p. 184 (where the year of Stern's birth is given erroneously as 1762).
H. R. J. G. L.
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