The First PhD Dissertation in the Scientific History in Turkey

This article is a review of The Observatory in Islam written by Aydin Sayili in 1960. Sayili is one of the most popular Turkish scholars in History of Science and has taken part of his reputation from his international works and being the first PhD student of George Sarton as well. The main idea of this monumental work lies in that the observatory as an institution is totally Islamic. Although in ancient times or namely Greek or Egyptian civilizations, observing or watching the skies was a familiar event, the emergence of the observatory as a solid, stable and immobile institution and serving as a kind of scientific research school in secular sciences takes its roots from the Islamic socio-cultural environment. The observatory in Islam was a full cooperation of a group of scholars, engineers, architects and craftsman. In his book Sayili not only gives all the systematic knowledge about the history of astronomy and observatory in Islam but also a civilizational comparison of European or modern imitations. This also leads him to a non-apologetic attitude from the point of Ottoman Science. Sayili gives a deep detail about the observatory work in 16th century İstanbul, since this is very important from the point of the continuity of the Islamic Civilization. He insists that especially observatory and hospital were two characteristic Islamic institutions and hospital for example, was a combination of the social solidarism and scientific medicine. In his conclusion Sayili also comments on the main problems of the Islamic thought -the questions of why are we lagging behind. He also touches on the problems of the terminology of the period such as Golden Age and shows that observatory as an institution continues its development until late 15th century. The decline of the Islamic science must not be understood as something like the decline of the distribution of the scientific knowledge or a civilizational retreat. The rise of the modern science and the decline of the Islamic science are two phenomena -totally natural- which have relational mechanisms.


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