Who was Joannes Leo Africanus?
Joannes Leo Africanus (c. 1494 – c. 1554) was a Berber Andalusi diplomat and author who is best known for his book "Descrittione dell’Africa" (Description of Africa) centered on the geography of the Maghreb and Nile Valley. The book was regarded among his scholarly peers in Europe as the most authoritative treatise on the subject until the modern exploration of Africa. For this work, Leo became a household name among European geographers.
Other than this, he wrote an Arabic-Hebrew-Latin medical vocabulary for the Jewish physician Jacob Mantino. He also wrote an Arabic translation of the Epistles of St. Paul, which is dated in January 1521, and the manuscript currently belongs to the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. Another surviving work is a biographical encyclopedia of 25 major Islamic scholars and 5 major Jewish scholars. It was completed in Rome before he left the city in 1527 and published for the first time in Latin by Johann Heinrich Hottinger in 1664.
The BBC produced a documentary about his life called "Leo Africanus: A Man Between Worlds" in 2011. The film followed in Leo's footsteps from Granada, through Fez and Timbuktu, all the way to Rome. It has been suggested that William Shakespeare may have been inspired by Leo Africanus' book to create the character of Othello.