Austrian jurist and theologian; born at Trebitsch, Moravia, Oct. 22, 1801; died at Vienna April 21, 1870. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Prague to prepare himself for the rabbinate, graduating as Ph.D. in 1828, and as LL.D. in 1833. In 1831 he was appointed teacher of religion at the gymnasium, and in 1837 at the Jewish congregational school; in 1846 he received permission to lecture on Hebrew and rabbinical literature at the University of Prague. In the meantime he had made himself known by contributions to juristic literature; and when, in 1848, trial by jury was introduced into Austria, the minister of justice sent him on a mission through France, Rhenish Prussia, Holland, and Belgium to study the legal methods employed in these countries. In the following year he was appointed privat-docent of jurisprudence at the University of Prague; in 1852 he was made assistant professor; and in 1861 he was appointed ordinary professor, being the first Austrian Jew to hold such a position.
In addition to contributions to periodicals, Wessely was the author of the following works: "Wer Ist nach den Grundsätzen des Oesterreichischen Rechts zur Vornahme einer Jüdischen Trauung Befugt?" (Prague, 1839); "Netib Emunah" (ib. 1840; 8th ed. 1863), a catechism; "Tefillat Yisrael," a prayer-book with German translation in Hebrew characters (ib. 1841; 2d ed., with German characters, ib. 1844); "Ueber die Gemeinschaftlichkeit der Beweismittel im Oesterreichischen Civilprocesse" (ib. 1844); and "Die Befugnisse des Nothstands und der Nothwehr nach Oesterreichischem Rechte" (ib. 1862). As a theologian he had strong rationalistic tendencies; and he explains Bat Ḳol as being the voice of conscience (Isidor Busch, "Jahrbuch," iii. 229).
- Wurzbach, Biog. Lex.;
- Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1870, pp. 407-408;
- Die Neuzeit, 1870, pp. 186-188.