Istanbul is one of the most important science and education centers of the world. It has hosted many scientific activities throughout its history, enabled many scientists to grow and was visited by innumerable scientists for various reasons. Countless venues, some of which have reached present day, provided for education and science activities in this city. It is not easy to decide what issues to focus when discussing such a broad subject. It is obviously challenging to decide which activities of people, who contributed to science and education, belonged to the city. For the features of the Ottoman learned society, which assumed a new shape after the conquest of Istanbul, required the mobility of scholars. Taking these issues into consideration, this volume of the project will discuss prominent education institutions that have been active in Istanbul throughout the history and educational and scientific activities performed in these institutions.
This section has been contributed by distinguished authors specializing in scientific and educational activities in the pre-Ottoman as well as Ottoman periods. The subjects that were discussed in this part were grouped under two main sections. The first section is about education and the second section is about science-technology. Educational activities and institutions that have been undertaken during the Byzantine era are discussed under the first section. Some interesting additional information related to the subjects has been provided through the frame writings and marginal notes about the articles in this section. Madrasa, which was the most important educational institution of Islamic civilization, libraries and foreign schools took up a large space. Scientific and technological developments in Istanbul from Byzantine era up to modern day have been discussed in the second section. Studies on military institutions and their technology have a remarkable place in the second section. Subjects from the Republic era to modern day have been discussed in a limited manner in both of the sections. Although Istanbul was not the capital and had the status of an ordinary city after the declaration of Republic, its significance due to its historical roots continued and it witnessed an intense education and scientific activity. Studies and activities that are related to our subject increased significantly in the last 40–50 years in Istanbul. As tackling and analyzing all of them would increase the volume of this section, we preferred to limit the subjects about Istanbul’s education and science history during the period of the Turkish Republic and only discuss and evaluate the most important ones. In this sense, only the important educational institutions and the arrival of electricity and gas in Istanbul, which was significant in terms of technology, were mentioned. The most important reason for limiting the framework to certain subjects was the concerns about the size of our part. However, we made an effort to mention briefly everything that stood out in Istanbul’s education, science and technology areas in both pre- and post-Republic era. There is not much information regarding the scientific activities and educational movements and their nature in the Byzantine period before the conquest. There is no doubt that it is appealing and exciting to study about the centuries-long science and education of Constantinople before the Ottomans. Such a study demonstrates essential differences between Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The first articles of both sections discussed the work of the Byzantine period. This was hoped to contribute to understanding the long educational and scientific experience during the Byzantine period. It needs to be emphasized here that some interpenetrations were inevitable in these two studies that discussed Byzantine science and technology history from different angles. However, we kept interpenetrations in place not to change the approach of both studies towards subjects and their flow.
It is not possible to say that Istanbul witnessed serious scientific activities in the few centuries immediately before Ottomans conquered it. Particularly, the destruction and plunder by the Crusaders in 1204 distorted the traditional structure of the city dramatically and damaged the educational and scientific activities severely. Expecting any kind of educational activity from the city, where people experienced immense financial and political problems until 1453 was naturally out of question. Still, the historical background of the city that was over 1000 years old influenced Ottoman Istanbul in a positive way. Therefore, understanding the history of the city before the Ottomans in the best way possible is very important in terms of assessing the contributions of Ottomans after the conquest. The subjects discussed in three articles compiled related to the Byzantine era are complementary for each other and they contain sufficient information in terms of demonstrating the educational activities that have occurred in the city throughout the history. One of the technological activities that was discussed in these articles and attracted attention in Byzantine Constantinople was undoubtedly the collection of self-operating machines owned by Emperor Theophilos (829–842). For instance, he could rise up to the ceiling through a mechanism under the throne, the lions on both sides of the throne were roaring, griffons were flying and birds started to sing on golden trees. The instruments were made with ancient techniques, that were defined and depicted by Philo of Alexandria (second century AD) or Heron (first century AD), whose work was described in a manuscript from Constantinople, which was copied in the tenth century. The settlement of Ottoman Turks in Istanbul brought along liveliness and educational dynamism to a city, which had not witnessed any serious scientific or educational activities in the last Byzantine centuries. A strong scientific liveliness started in the city particularly with the personal efforts of Mehmed II the Conqueror and continued with its highs and lows until the end of the empire. New madrasas such as Sahn-ı Seman, Zeyrek and Ayasofya were opened within the framework of activities initiated in order to make Istanbul a scientific and cultural center. Distinguished scientists from all over the world were invited to Istanbul with appealing offers and were provided with special work conditions. Ali Kuşçu from Samarqand is certainly the most famous among them. The curriculums of madrasas that would function from the foundation to the end of the state were regulated with the arrival of Ali Kusçu and a system that would remain for centuries was set up.
The first chapter concerning the Ottoman period in the section of education describes intellectual life and movements in Istanbul in a broad and detailed way. This article starts by analyzing basic issues that emerged in choosing the subjects of this volume. It is undoubtedly difficult to separate intellectual life and educational life of Istanbul from each other. As a matter of fact, considering that scientists and artists had trainings for a certain period of time, we can see that intellectual life is directly related to the educational life. Similarly, it is important that influential people in politics and administration were directly connected to education as well as being influential in scientific and intellectual life. In this case, education in Istanbul took an important place in the activities in scientific, intellectual, artistic, administrative and political areas. In addition, application of knowledge and skills acquired in educational life is related with the information in real life; the reflection of this experience in the education represents an important dimension that should be taken into consideration.
Traditional education system that would continue from the conquest to the Republic era was analyzed comprehensively by giving ample examples and evaluating incidents in various periods in another interesting article of the same section. The subject of Ottoman educational system and institutions discussed comprehensively in this study concentrates particularly on madrasas, which were common and traditional education institutions formed and developed throughout Islamic history and geography. Madrasa was the main institution of Islamic education system. The education at madrasa is directly related to the thought. Madrasa is an institution that paves the way for ideas on one hand and carries and continues it on the other. Madrasas have an important place in both educational and intellectual life in this respect. This article particularly examined scholars, their relationship with dignitaries of the state, primarily the sultans, their political and scientific influences, their works, place in the world of science and history, importance and position in the state administration. It needs to be emphasized that Ottoman scholars were a basic component of state and community, and presented new horizons, in particular, during the foundation and florescence periods of the empire, and formed dynamism in the society. The highest-ranking madrasas of Ottoman Empire were located in Istanbul, which had a very important role in Islamic world in terms of educational and intellectual life, as well as politics and geography. Madrasa students, trained there, dispersed to all parts of the country after they graduated. Scholars in Istanbul constituted the backbone of the Ottoman learned organization.
Scholars from Iran, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Mughal Empire had close relations with Ottoman Empire although they were not from the Ottoman lands. In addition, scholars from Egypt, Damascus, Tunisia and Algeria, who represented different traditions, were well known in Arab cities, and trained in long-established madrasas but stayed out of the Ottoman official scholarly system, had close relations with Istanbul scholars. These scholars mostly came to the Ottoman lands with diplomatic duties and sometimes joined scientific discussions.
Medical education was among the education subjects in Istanbul throughout the history. It was discussed by giving various examples starting from Byzantine period to modern day. In addition, astronomy activities, astronomy education and the respective educational institutions called muvakkithane as well as chemistry education and institutions were analyzed in detail. Chemistry gained importance particularly after the revolution of science and technology in Europe, and both its education and practice were given great importance. The subject of chemistry was treated in a separate article.
After the second quarter of the nineteenth century, particularly during the years following the declaration of Tanzimat, modern educational institutions were quickly founded in Istanbul. Particularly, schools opened by foreigners as well as local modern schools attracted attention. A very comprehensive study regarding these schools, some of which were established for solely missionary activities, is included in the section of education. The subject of the education of Muslim society in these modern schools is investigated in a comprehensive and detailed study in this section. One of the most interesting aspects of educational life in Istanbul was the presence of non-Muslim schools in addition to educational activities of traditional Turkish-Islamic civilization. Other educational institutions discussed in this section are the Darüşşafaka, Halkalı Agriculture School, American Girls’ College and American Girls’ Theology School. The first modern university of Ottomans, Darülfünun, was included as one of the important studies of this section.
Educational institutions and science activities that emerged in early twentieth century and continued in the Republic era are included in this section. Educational activities in Istanbul in the Republic period are evaluated in detail in this study. It is necessary to look back at the 90-year history of the Turkish Republic in Istanbul, which is a real science-education city with nearly 50 universities and many other education institutions, in order to understand its place in the world. It is undoubtedly difficult to describe educational and scientific life of Istanbul of the Republic era with just a few articles, since Istanbul, after serving as the capital to three empires, entered the Republic era as the heir of these civilizations, particularly the 600 years of Ottoman civilization. One of the most important components of this heritage was the modern educational institutions, which trained the generation that founded the Republic. This heritage constituted the backbone of Turkish educational system in the establishment period of the Republic. An important part of Ottoman educational heritage, which the Republic inherited, was in Istanbul. Leading role of the city in the educational system of the country became more evident in secondary and higher education. As a matter of fact, more than half of the private and official high schools in Turkey in 1923–1924 academic year and all of the universities and junior colleges were in Istanbul. However, we need to state that the distinguished place of Istanbul was related to the qualities of the educational institutions it had as well as their number. Furthermore, the best schools of the country in different levels were in Istanbul. The city constituted a great example that depicted Turkish educational system in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Thus, writing the history of education it is as difficult as writing about the one in the country.
The second section, entitled “Science and Technology,” mainly discusses military technology. This section starts with two articles describing science and technology in the Byzantine period from different viewpoints. It also tackles in detail Ottoman engineering schools, which were military educational institutions. Scientific and professional communities that emerged in Istanbul as of early nineteenth century and gradually became more common, as well as the civilian engineering education are presented in two separate articles. Final subjects of this section are the arrival and spread of electricity and gas in Istanbul.
We do not claim that we have covered all subjects in this field for a city like Istanbul that has been one of the most significant scientific and intellectual centers of the world throughout the history. However, we paid great attention to reflecting basic subjects that should be known as far as the intellectual and educational areas of the city are concerned.