Modern Astronomy in Ottoman Madrasa Circles in the First Half of the 19th Century


The use of telescopes for scientific purposes has significantly changed our knowledge of the structure of the Solar System. By the mid-19th century, two new planets, a dozen asteroids, and dozens of satellites had been added to the five planets known since ancient times. The Ottoman scientific circles did not turn their back on these developments in the West but reflected them in their works. However, the main thesis about the transfer of current knowledge is that this transfer had mainly been done by modern educational institutions at a speed not too high. This claim is expressed more powerfully when considering the madrasa environment in particular. The literature states that the first work from a madrasa to mention the two new planets of Uranus and Neptune that were discovered in the modern period is Ḳonevī’s (d. circa 19th century) Tanqīḥ al-ashkāl, written after 1857. This means a delay of 76 years for Uranus and at least 11 years for Neptune. This article aims to demonstrate that the first works to mention Uranus and Neptune did not originate from modern educational institutions and that the delay regarding the transfer of information did not occur as mentioned in the literature. This study shows that the first work to mentions Uranus was Tashīl al-idrāk, written by Ḳuyucakḳlızāde (d. 1263/1847) in 1831 and originating from a madrasa and that the first work to mention Neptune was Ḥayātīzāde’s (d. 1267/1851) Afkār al-jabarūt, written in 1847, again originating from a madrasa, and published in 1848. Thus, this study hopes the exiting hypothesis in the literature, which has a great deal of support, will start to be questioned based on these examples.


History of science History of astronomy Astronomy Cosmology