INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON SCIENCE INSTITUTIONS IN ISLAMIC CIVILISATION, 1991

International Symposium on Science Institutions in Islamic Civilisation, organised by IRCICA, Turkish Society for History of Science, UNESCO and the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Istanbul, 22-24 April 1991


IRCICA collaborated with the Turkish History of Science in organising the international symposium on "Science Institutions in Islamic Civilisation." The symposium was held at IRCICA’s conference hall on 22-24 April 1991. It was co-sponsored by The Turkish Prime Ministry's Promotion Fund, The UNESCO, the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science (IUHPS) and the Third World Academy of Sciences (Trieste, Italy). Fourty papers were presented by scholars from nine countries (Austria, France, German, India, Jordan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the USA and the USSR). They with different aspects of the history of science in the Muslim world with special emphasis on science institutions.

The meeting’s theme covered the institutions of science and learning of the classical period as well as the ones established in the Ottoman Empire under Western influence starting with the 18th century. The activities of different institutions were looked into, taking into account the development of the fields of science they were concerned with and the works of scientists.

Inaugurating the symposium, Prof.Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, IRCICA Director General and Founder-President of the Turkish Society for History of Science explained the purpose of the symposium and the motives for selecting this particular theme. He said that the institutional aspects constitute a relatively new field of study in the history of science and that academic interest in this field is growing. The symposium aimed at creating an opportunity whereby new studies on previously explored institutions would be presented, such as hospitals and observatories; another aim was to encourage research on other scientific and educational institutions in the history of Islamic civilisation such as the Bait al-Hikma, the medreses and the more recent medical school and engineering school.

Prof.Dr. David King, Director of the History of Science Institute of Frankfurt University adressed the inaugural session on behalf of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science (IUHPS). He said that the history of science symposia organised by IRCICA previously had put vigour into the academic study of the subject. He also commended the series of publications on "Studies and Sources in the History of Science" through which the Centre had provided valuable references for historians of science.

The Keynote Speech was given by Prof.Dr. Georg Makdisi who is well-known for his studies about the educational institutions in the Muslim world. Prof. Makdisi spoke on "Scholastic Intellectual Culture: The Islamic-Christian Model". He elaborated upon the influences of educational institutions of the Muslim world upon the institutions of higher education established in the West starting with the 12th century. He said that the reception of the Islamic scholastic intellectual culture in the Christian West was indicated in the technical terminology of the Islamic scholastic guild and that it was the same for Islam as it later was for the Christian West.

The participants deplored the loss of Prof. Selim Saidan, distinguished scholar of the history of mathematics in Islam, who was expected to attend the symposium.

Papers presented during the working sessions dealt with scientific activities in different periods and regions of the Muslim world. The papers contributed by Ahmed Hasnaoui (titled "Formation des philosophies dans l'Islam classique: étude de cas"), Roshdi Rashed (titled "Linguistique, cryptographie, philosophie et analyse combinatoire") and Fuad Mamedov ("About the works of Mohammad Nasred-din Tusi") referred to science in the classical period of Islam. A survey of science institutions in Muslim India was presented by Razaullah Ansari and Khan Ghori, evaluating their role in the development of "Ulum-i Aqliyah".

The Ottoman scientific and educational institutions were examined in two groups of studies. The first group was about the medreses which were the major scientific and educational institutions of the classical Ottoman period. Papers were presented by Cevat Izgi ("Teaching of mathematical and physical sciences in the Ottoman medrese"), Hulusi Lekesiz ("Some reflections on the decline of Ottoman scientific mentality") and Fahri Unan ("The scientific institution of official Ottoman ideology in the 15th and 16th centuries: Fatih medreses"). The "Enderun Mektebi" (Palace School) which is accepted as a unique institution in Islamic history was taken up by Gül Russell in her paper titled "The Palace School: A critical evaluation".

The second group of papers about Ottoman institutions focused on the "Mühendishane" (Engineering Schools) which started to be established in the 18th century under the influence of modern Western sciences. These papers were presented by Ercüment Kuran ("Foundation and development of the Imperial School of Engineering in Istanbul"), Kemal Beydilli ("The Engineering School library and its printing press during the reigns of Selim III and Mahmud II"), Frédéric Hitzel ("Le rôle des français dans les écoles d'ingénieurs a Istanbul au 18eme siecle"), Mehmet Aydın ("Tanzimat and education in Ottoman Turkey") and Mustafa Kaçar ("The establishment of the Ottoman Engineering Schools"). The paper by Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu ("Some remarks on the teaching of exact sciences in Ottoman institutions") made an overview of scientific education in the classical and modern Ottoman periods. The development of astronomy and its teaching was taken up in the papers of Regis Morelon (titled "Les observations continues des astres dans l'astronomie arabe"), David King ("Ottoman scientific instruments -astrolabes, quadrants and sundials"), Muammer Dizer ("Observatory in the Ottoman period") and Remzi Demir ("Observations made at Istanbul Observatory"). The medical institutions of the Ottoman period were studied by Nil Sarı ("Qualifications required for the health and auxiliary personnel serving in Ottoman hospitals"), Nuran Yıldırım ("Disinfection stations in the Ottoman Empire"), Ayşegül Demirhan ("The place of Haydarpaşa Medical Faculty in the Turkish Medical History") and Ayten Altıntaş ("Ottoman Council of Health Affairs"). Other aspects of medicine and medical education were pointed out by Zuhal Özaydın ("The beginning of medical education in Turkish and Hayrullah Efendi") and Sinan Kuneralp ("La Gazette Médicale d'Orient: The anatomy of a medical journal published in the Ottoman capital, 1857-1917").

Papers on the history of medicine and medical education included studies referring to different regions of the Muslim world. Serge Jagailloux compared the development of modern medicine in 19th century Egypt and Turkey ("Parallélisme dans le développement de la nouvelle médecine occidentale en Turquie et en Egypte au 19eme siecle"); Adel Ziadat took up the "Western hospitals in Palestine, the case of Nazareth Mission Hospital" and Irfan Habib and Dhruv Raina, the "Delhi Tibbia College and Hakim Ajmal Khan's crusade for the indigenous medicine systems in the late 19th and early 20th century India". Beside the papers dealing primarily with 19th-century medicine, contributions by Ramazan Şeşen ("Medical education in the Ayyubid era") and Jean-Paul Luft ("Hospitals and waqf in Mongolian and Timurid Iran") completed the picture with a look into medicine in the 13th-16th centuries. The only paper about the history of education in pharmacy was by Turhan Baytop ("The introduction of the academic study of pharmacy in the Ottoman Empire"), evaluating the consequences of the collective teaching of pharmacy introduced in 1839.

There were also paper presentations on a variety of related topics, by Akif A. Ali-zade ("Stages of development of physical science in the poetry of Nizami", 12th-century Azarbaijani poet), Martin Strohmeier ("Educational institutions in Syria in the 19th and 20th centuries"), Ghulam Haniff ("Scientific knowledge and contemporary Muslims") and Munira Shahedee ("The new scientific institutions in the Republic of Tadjikistan"). The study by Gert Schubring ("Recent research on institutional history of science and its application to Islamic civilisation") gave an overview of studies on the institutional history of European science and approached the literature on the history of institutions in Islamic civilisation with a similar outlook, focusing on the role of the State. The closing session of the symposium included an open discussion where the participants shared views and experiences regarding their studies. They discussed matters of definition and terminology and pointed to subject areas where further research is needed. It was mentioned that there was a lack of information about certain scientific activities and whether these were carried out in the framework of institutions. The discussants also referred to the written communications which could be considered as an informal type of institution that had worked well in the past. Dwelling upon the influence of the State and the Palace on the development of science, they emphasized that studies on the history of science and scientific institutions should take into consideration the State-science-society relationship. The symposium, they said, had opened new horizons and brought forth new questions; the quest for answers would hopefully lead to new findings.

The papers of the international symposium on Science Institutions in Islamic Civilisation (Istanbul, April 1991) and the international symposium on Science and Technology in the Turkish and Islamic World (Istanbul, 3-5 June 1994) were published under the title Science in Islamic Civilisation.