Tychsen, Olaus Gerhard
Tychsen, Olaus Gerhard a German Talmudist, was born Dec. 14, 1734, at Tondern, a town in Sleswick. He studied the classical and Oriental languages in the gymnasium of Altona, with the exception of Arabic, which he acquired from a merchant whose business had caused him to reside during many years in North Africa. He finished his theological course at Halle, and was soon afterwards appointed a teacher in G. A. Franke's Orphanage. While so employed he learned the English, Hindostani, and Tamil languages from a missionary (Schulz). His favorite study, however, was the Rabbinical Talmud, in whose language he was, so proficient as to be able to speak and write with great ease. He was, in April, 1759, appointed missionary to the Jews and Mohammedans, and traveled in that capacity through North Germany, Prussia, Denmark, and Saxony, but without accomplishing anything. In the synagogue at Altona his sermon even earned for him a severe beating. In 1760 Tychsen went to the University of Butzow, in Mecklenburg, as magister legens, and remained there until Butzow was united with the University of Rostock and transferred to the latter place, when he likewise removed thither. He died Dec. 30,1815. Tychsen had earned a great reputation, as is attested by his election to numerous societies and by many flattering testimonials; but this reputation respected simply the extent, and not at all the thoroughness, of his knowledge. He possessed solid acquirements only in the Rabbinical, and joined with them a keen eye and considerable skill for the detection of foreign written characters; but he was deficient in judgment, ready to venture the most improbable hypotheses, and anxious for notoriety. He is consequently important only as a Talmudist, a numismatist, and an epigrapher. His controversy with Kennicott and Bayer directed attention to him more than any other incident of his careers and it afforded evidence of all the traits described above-his wide learning, obstinate orthodoxy, and want of critical judgment. In this dispute he wrote, Tentamen de Variis Codicum Hebr. Vet. Test. MSS. Generibus (Rost. 1772, 8vo), in support of the Masoretic text: —Befreites Tentarnen, etc. (1774): — and a supplement (1776). He insisted that the Greek versions had been made from a Hebrew text written in Greek characters, and advocated the no less singular theory that the Samaritan Pentateuch had been copied from a Hebraeo-Jewish (Masoretic) text with the vowel-points-the latter in Disputatio Hist. — phil. crit. de Pent. Samarit. etc. (Btitzow, 1765, 4to). In 1779 he published a work to demonstrate the spurious character of all Jewish coins bearing Jewish or Samaritan characters, including those of the Maccabmean period, which drew forth a reply from the Spanish Jesuit Bayer and occasioned a protracted dispute. 'In the study of Arabic coins Tychsen rendered real service, and began the systematic study of Oriental numismatics. He showed himself a master in the deciphering of inscriptions (see Erkldrung d. arab. Schrif auf d. rom. kaiserl. Kronungsmantel, in the Meckl. — Schwerin. Gelehrten Beitragae, 1780, Nos. 42, 45, and the Inteipret. Inscript. Cufic. in Alarm. Templ. Patriarch. S. Petri Cathedra [Rost. 1787]). Tychsen also published editions ofAl-Makrizi A I-Makrizi Hist.
Monetce Arab. e Cod. Escui'ial. (ibid. 1797, 8vo): — and Tractat. de Legalibus Arab. Ponderibus et Mensuris (ibid. 1800, 8vo). His Elementale Arabicum, etc., is of inferior value, as is also his Element. Syriacum. See Hartmann, Olaus Gerhard Tychsen, etc. (Bremen, 1818 sq.); De Sacy, Biog. Universelle, 47, 120 sq. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.