Matej Bel (1684-1749) was a polymath, teacher, historian, Lutheran pastor and one of the greatest of Slovak scholars in the eighteenth century. He was dubbed Magnum decus Hungariae - the Great Ornament of Hungary. Born on March 23rd, 1684 in Očová into the family of an agricultural labourer and butcher, he attended schools in Lučenec, Kalinovo and Doha Strehová, followed by grammar schools in Banska Bystrica, Bratislava and - briefly - Veszprém and Pápa. In the years 1704-1706 he studied theology and philosophy at the university in Halle. An appointment as rector of the school at Klosterbergen near Magdeburg was followed by periods as pro-rector and subsequently rector of the Lutheran grammar school in Banska Bystrica, where he was simultaneously pastor. Between 1714 and 1719 he was rector of the Lutheran grammar school and - from the latter year - also pastor of the German Lutheran church in Bratislava, the city in which he is buried. A leading figure in pietism, Bel wrote sacred works in the Lutheran liturgical language and a Latin and German prayer book. His work as translator and editor in the field of religious work is also copious. A pioneer of collaborative research in the history of the Hungarian lands, he undertook a comprehensive historical and geographic examination of the territory in his well-known Notitia Hungariae novae historico-geographica (dealing with each county individually), some of which were published, while the rest remained in manuscript. He was also one of the authors of a unique account of agriculture in the Hungarian Kingdom. In 1735 Bel drew up a proposal for the creation of an all-Hungary learned society, to be based in Bratislava. Bel's works met with recognition and respect beyond the Kingdom, and he was a member of a number of learned societies abroad.
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