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VECINHO (VIZINO), JOSEPH:

Portuguese court physician and scientist at the end of the fifteenth century. He was a pupil of Abraham Zacuto, under whom he studied mathematics and cosmography, on which latter subject he was regarded as an eminent authority by John II. of Portugal. He was sent by the king to the coast of Guinea, there to measure the altitude of the sun, doubtless by means of the astrolabe as improved by Jacob b. Machir.

When, in 1484, Columbus laid before the king his plan for a western route to the Indies, it was submitted to a junta, or commission, consisting of the Bishop of Ceuta, "Mestre Josepe" (Joseph Vecinho), the court physician Rodrigo, a Jewish mathematician named Moses, and Martin Behaim. The junta finally decided against Columbus' plans; and when the matter came up before the council of state Pedro de Menezes opposed them also, basing his arguments upon Joseph Vecinho's criticisms. Columbus attributed the refusal of the Portuguese monarch to adopt his plans chiefly to "the Jew Joseph." Though Vecinho did not favor Columbus, the latter had personal intercourse with him, and obtained from him a translation of Zacuto's astronomical tables. Columbus carried this translation with him on his voyage, and found it extremely useful; it was found in his library after his death.

Joseph Vecinho's translation of Zacuto's tables was published by the Jewish printer Samuel d'Ortas in Leiria under the title "Almanach Perpetuum," 1496.

Bibliography:
  • Kayserling, Christopher Columbus, pp. 9, 12-13, 16-18, 47-48.
S. J.
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