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Dorothee Metlitzki

Historian Dorothee Metlitzki investigated how ideas about science spread through the Middle Ages, but her scholarship took a more active turn during her frequent border crossings in the chaotic Middle East of the 1940s. Metlitzki earned her master’s degree from the University College of London in 1938 and travelled to Palestine alone, teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1939–1944. She spent 1944 traveling to buy books for the new library of Alexandria, and from 1948–1950 she regularly crossed the Egyptian border to tend to her dying husband, an Egyptologist, while working in Israel. Widowed with a young child, she immigrated to America in 1953 and earned her PhD from Yale in 1957. From 1957–1965 she worked for both the British Council in Cairo and the University of California at Berkeley, then taught at Yale from 1965 until her death. In 1977 she published her masterwork, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England, demonstrating how Arab philosophers preserved the works of ancient Greek scientists which were then adapted by English writers and thinkers like Chaucer. Her work showed the importance of Arab contributions to Western thought and the progression of ideas across the entire expanse of the medieval world.

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Dorothee Metlitzki.
Photograph by T. Charles Erickson.
Date of Birth


Date of Death
Historian, Writer

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Dorothee Metlitzki." (Viewed on June 19, 2019) <>.


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