Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (אליעזר בן־יהודה) (b. Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman, January 7, 1858-1922), was principally responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, whereas it had previously been a ceremonial language.
He was born in Luzhki (Лужки), a small town in Wilno Guberniya of Imperial Russia (now Northern Belarus). After being an ardent revolutionary in Imperial Russia, he joined the Jewish national movement and emigrated to Palestine in 1881 (which was later to become Israel). Motivated by the surrounding ideals of renovation and rejection of the diaspora lifestyle, Ben-Yehuda set out to develop a new language that could replace Yiddish and other regional dialects as a means of everyday communication.
While at first many considered his work as fanciful, the need for a common language was soon understood by many. A Committee of the Hebrew Language was established. Later it became the Academy of the Hebrew Language, an organization that still exists today. The results of his work and the Committee's were published in a dictionary (The Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew). Ben-Yehuda's work fell on fertile ground, and by the beginning of the 20th century, Hebrew was well on its way to becoming the main language of the Jewish population in Israel.
- Before Ben-Yehuda... Jews could speak Hebrew; after him they did. (Cecil Roth in: Was Hebrew Ever A Dead Language?).