M. LEONTYEV (November 10, 1872-September 3, 1943)
The pen name of Leon Solomon Moiseyev, he was born in Riga, Latvia. He studied Jewish topics with local school teachers and with private tutors, and he received a systematic secular education in a German high school (1880-1887) and in the Riga polytechnic (1889-1891). At age fourteen he published in German a pamphlet on ethical socialism. In his student years he was taken with the Russian revolutionary movement and was active in a secret circle of revolutionary students. Apprehensive that his revolutionary activities not impede his future career, his parents sent him in 1891 to the United States. In New York he studied in the School of Engineering at Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1895 with distinction. He was well-known as an engineer under his real name: Leon Moiseyev. From 1897 to 1915, he was employed by the government of the state of New York as a structural engineer. He later practiced his profession privately and became eminent as one of the most important bridge engineers in America. He was an advisor and planner of the greatest suspension bridges in America, among them the New York bridges over the East River, the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River, the Triborough Bridge, and the Bronx Whitestone Bridge; the Delaware Bridge in Philadelphia; the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; and the bridges in Detroit, Toledo, and elsewhere. He also served as an advisor on the construction of the bridge over Rhine River in Köln, Germany. For his accomplishment as a construction engineer, he was awarded the Norman Prize from the association chemical engineers (1934), received the James Laurie Prize (1939), the Eggleston medal from Columbia University (1939), the Modern Pioneer medal from the association of American manufacturers (1940), and other American and foreign distinctions. He wrote numerous articles on bridge construction and placed them in technical American publications, and he was the author of original and translated books in English on the problems of building suspension bridges. A second part of his creative life found expression in the Yiddish realm in America. Using the pen name M. Leontyev, he was politically close to the Jewish anarchists and wrote articles on economic and social topics, first in Johann Most’s Freiheit (Freedom) in German, later (with the help of his friend, Moyshe Kats, who would correct his Yiddish) in Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor) in New York. He also published his writings in New York’s Tsukunft (Future), Der idisher kemfer (The Jewish fighter), and the anthology Literatur (Literature), in which (vol. 1, 1910) he published an essay on the French poet Charles Baudelaire. When Fraye arbeter-shtime was temporarily shut down in 1894, he was editor of the anarchist monthly Di fraye gezelshaft (The free association), “a monthly journal for the most progressive people” (it appeared for a year beginning in October 1895). Knowledgeable in European literature, he dealt in his writing as well as in his popular lectures with issues of literary criticism and aesthetics. He had the ability to explain in a popular manner a literary work such that both those with little education and those well-versed readers would profit from it. He also wrote a great deal on Yiddish writers and their works, and he was considered at the time an important Yiddish literary critic in America. In addition, he published articles on the sociology of theater—something that was a new phenomenon in America. He utilized his community seniority and prestige to arouse respect for Yiddish literature in American Jewish and non-Jewish circles, in which people had nothing but ridicule for the Yiddish language and literature. In 1915 he was the president of the publishers of Tog (Day) and for a certain amount of time the manager of the newspaper. At the request of Louis D. Brandeis, he prepared a memorandum on Jews in the land of Israel. He died in Bellmawr, New Jersey.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Sh. Epshteyn, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1910); D. B. Tirkel, in Pinkes (New York) 1 (1927-1928); S. Kay, in Tog (New York), English section (February 14, 1932); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), third part (Vilna, 1935), pp. 72-75; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (December 1940; May 1942); Elye Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), p 76; Dr. H. Frank, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (September 24, 1943); Y. Khaykin, a series of six biographical articles, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (October 15, 1943 and following); M. Dantsis, in Tog (September 2, 1943; May 23, 1948); D. Ignatov, in Tsukunft (December 1944); Dr. Y. Shatski, in Tsukunft (November 1943); L. Kobrin, Mayne fuftsik yor in amerike (My fifty years in America) (Buenos Aires, 1955), pp. 342-45; Kobrin, in Eynikeyt (New York) (March 15, 1956); Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 7; Who’s Who in World Jewry (1938-1939); obituary notices in the American Jewish and non-Jewish trade journals.