Gersonides (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon), also known as the Ralbag, observed a solar eclipse on this date in 1337 from his home in Provence. He became the only stargazer before modern times who correctly estimated stellar distances to be hugely bigger than imagined by his contemporaries. Gersonides was a Talmudist, philosopher, inventor, mathematician and astronomer who also believed in astrology: “[A]strological determinism has only one limitation,” he wrote. “The free will of man could shatter the course of action ordained for him by the stars; prophecy could therefore predict the future on the basis of astrological determination only insofar as the free will of man does not break through the determined course of things.” A crater on the moon is named for him.
“[I]if reason causes to affirm doctrines that are incompatible with the literal sense of Scripture, we are not prohibited by the Torah to pronounce the truth on these matters, for reason is not incompatible with the true understanding of the Torah.” —Gersonides