1453 is known as the year when a new age began in the world history. The venue of this historical turn is Istanbul. Istanbul is located at the intersection of the sea route going from the north to the south and the land route going from the east to the west. When a natural inner harbour, Golden Horn, was added to this geography, an extraordinary city came into existence which has never lost its importance throughout the history.
Istanbul is located in such an important geography and when Mehmed II conquered the city, he immediately took action for the development of it. Mehmed II was educated by prominent teachers of the time such as Molla Gürani and Molla Hüsrev, and he was so wise to locate Istanbul as the capital city of the state as well as a centre of science and culture.
Prof. Dr. Mahmut Ak: There is no doubt that Mehmed II is one of the most important sultans of the Ottoman History. He is actually one of the sultans who changed the Ottoman State system. As he had received a solid education, he had a will strong enough to change the system. As a natural result of the Ottoman educational system, Mehmed II received his education firstly at the palace and then in the cities where he had been a shehzade under the auspices of the prominent scientists assigned to himself. He was a personality who loved reading very much; he used to interpret and comment on the books he obtained. As a matter of fact, the one standing out in terms of its existent books in both Topkapı Palace Museum Library and Süleymaniye Library that is an association of libraries is the Fatih (Mehmed II) Library. Even the examination of the books there emphasizes how much attention Fatih (Mehmed II) gives to education and sciences.
With the invitation of Mehmed II, who attached great importance to life sciences as well as religious sciences, a lot of artists and scientists living in various cities in the world from Samarkand to Venice started to come to Istanbul. Süheyl Ünver says, “Mehmed II started a great move by putting positive sciences in his madrasahs.”
ZEYREK AND HAGIA SOPHIA MADRASAHS
Süheyl Ünver tells that the Istanbul University was first established in Zeyrek and Hagia Sophia madrasahs and trained students at these venues for 18 years.
Prof. Dr. Fehameddin Başar: It is possible to carry the establishment of the Istanbul University over to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II's conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It is because Mehmed II planned to turn Istanbul into a science centre, a cultural centre after conquering it, and he invited all scientists and professors in the Ottoman towns to Istanbul, and on the first Friday after the conquest, on June 1, 1453, at the first namaz (ritual prayer) performed in Hagia Sophia, he ordered his teachers, the professors and scholars he considered his teachers to start training immediately, and upon this order, when Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque right after the conquest, the monks' rooms along Hagia Sophia were also turned into a madrasah and training was started there. Therefore, the first higher education in Istanbul, which is also the basis of our university, was started in two madrasahs, firstly at Hagia Sophia and right after that at Pantokrator Church that was turned into a masrasah, in Zeyrek. These two madrasahs are the madrasahs that constitute the foundation of our university.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: The establishment year of the Istanbul University is accepted as 1453. There is a reason for this, because after conquering Istanbul in 1453, Mehmed II wanted higher education to start immediately at Hagia Sophia and Zeyrek Madrasahs. That is, before the Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs were established. Therefore, 1453, which is the date the higher education activities of the Turks began in the Ottoman Istanbul, is accepted as the establishment year of the Istanbul University.
Prof. Dr. Mahmut Ak: Just after the first namaz (ritual prayer) was performed at Hagia Sophia, a training room was created right there and training was started. The educational institutions in Zeyrek undertook this task until the new madrasah group was built. As a matter of fact, as Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs were built, this adventure that our university actually represents and that is to reach the educational institutions of our Republic started in this way.
Mehmed II assigned Zeyrek Mehmet Efendi as the teacher of the madrasah established at Pantokrator Monastery right after the conquest. In the following years, that madrasah was called as “Zeyrek Madrasah”, and the neighbourhood started to be called as “Zeyrek”. Mehmed II sometimes went to Zeyrek Madrasah in person and listened to the lectures and discussions.
The building was used as madrasah until the construction of Fatih Complex. Today, the building continues to serve as Zeyrek Mosque.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: It is possible to start the history of the Istanbul University from Zeyrek. Why? First of all, we need to clarify this subject I believe. The Ottoman State had a formal education system, and that formal education was above the elementary school level. In the Ottoman State, a madrasah system starting from the age of 9 and covering today's university was implemented. As a result of that system, the Ottoman State had a certain formal education system and a structure that had its own qualities not in the Western type even before the conquest of Istanbul. There was an understanding of rank in the Ottoman madrasah system. That system was carried over to Istanbul after the conquest of Istanbul. As soon as it was carried over to Istanbul, that is, by the conquest of Istanbul, the first activities were performed in Zeyrek, in the mosques, and as Hagia Sophia, the most sacred place of Byzantium, was transformed into a mosque, the mosques that were places for practicing within the Ottoman educational system also became a part of this educational system. As a result, educational activities were started there from the first days.
The other building that was used as a madrasah right after the conquest was Hagia Sophia that is one of the most significant buildings of the history of architecture. Mehmed II assigned Molla Hüsrev, who was his teacher, as the professor of Hagia Sophia Madrasah. Mehmed II turned the empty rooms in Hagia Sophia into a madrasah and had the original madrasah constructed on the north side of Hagia Sophia. The building was used until the construction of the Fatih Complex.
Prof. Dr. Semavi Eyice: That building was probably renovated substantially in the 19th century. It is the adjacent building on the northwest corner of the north side of Hagia Sophia. This madrasah was also closed after the madrasahs were generally closed. They tore down the madrasah in an effort to make Hagia Sophia a museum when reaching 1935. However, the destroyed building belongs to the architecture of the 19th century, although not very clear, the photos we have explicitly shows that.
This first madrasah, that is, the oldest madrasah, could not manage to survive to date. This madrasah was destroyed and abolished between the years 1930-35. Some time around 20-25 years ago, they dug its place of location. Its foundations came out and even an idea was introduced. They suggested rebuilding the madrasah in accordance with its old plans and pictures. Today, only the foundations of this madrasah can be seen and that's all.
The scientists that were invited to Istanbul after the conquest were assigned either to the madrasah at Zeyrek or to the madrasah at Hagia Sophia. Among these people was Ali Qushji, who was the head of Samarkand Observatory, and Ali Tusi, one of the prominent names of the time. Ali Qushji was assigned to the Hagia Sophia Madrasah and Ali Tusi to Zeyrek Madrasah.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: Since we did not have the opportunity to construct a special building immediately by ourselves those times, we used that place and then also Hagia Sophia as madrasahs right after the conquest and the lectures started in those places. There were extremely serious people with high capacities. There were Mehmed II's professors and friends. Then a political chaos emerges in the provinces of Turkestan. Ulugh Beg, one of the wise rulers of the Turks there, lost his life in vain. There were many valuable scientists rose in his era –and we have produced valuable theses on this subject in our university. The major one was Ali Qushji. Mehmed II had sent a special invitation to Ali Qushji.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: Ottoman madrasahs, particularly until Mehmed II, had to keep on transferring faculty members because they were still in sort of an establishment stage. Since the area it was established on was located in the Byzantine geography and since the principalities were still active in Anatolia, the faculty members were transferred there from Turkestan, today's geography of Iran and the Arabic geography. And also, the ones that were there in the previous Seljuk era in Anatolia were its natural heirs and were taking it. The Ottoman State used to prefer two ways to train faculty members when it was required. In the first way, they were sending their members to Samarkand Bukhara Madrasahs or to Egypt, which were in better positions, and the person was going voluntarily and coming back after graduating from the higher madrasahs, that is, the madrasahs in university levels there. And some of them used to go and stay there. For example, while Kadızade-i Rumi was a person that went to Samarkand from Bursa and became the head professor, that is today's rector level, in Samarkand, another scholar Ali Qushji, who had worked at the madrasahs where Kadızade-i Rumi also had been, ran away from the political chaos in that region and came to the geography of Iran. And Mehmed II invited Ali Qushji to Istanbul. His field of expertise was not theology, but he was actually a great scholar of the time in mathematics. Therefore, he came to Istanbul to work at the higher madrasah that is the equivalent of university.
Existing old buildings that time were soon insufficient for the constantly developing Istanbul. Hence, Mehmed II ordered the construction of a complex that was going to meet the whole requirement in Istanbul. In 1463, a construction was started for a scientific and educational institution that is known today as the Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex on one of the famous seven hills of Istanbul.
Prof. Dr. Mahmut Ak: When the name of Mehmed II is mentioned, there is no doubt that firstly Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs that is also a panoramic element of Istanbul are recalled. Since Mehmed II had these madrasahs built, they are known as the Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs, and since they are located in a special area, they are also known as Sahn, and since there are 8 of them, they are also known as Sahn-ı Seman Madrasahs or Medarisi Semaniye.
In 1470, Zeyrek and Hagia Sophia madrasahs were transferred to the Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex together with their teachers. In the complex, there was a mosque, eight madrasahs, preparatory madrasahs called “Tetimme”, a library, “muvakkithane” where clock adjustment was made, “darüşşifa” that was the first hospital of the Turkish era in Istanbul, “tabhane” that was the guesthouse of the era, a bath, a kitchen that served food to the staff, guests and students of the complex, and shops. There was also a caravansary under the building.
Prof. Dr. Fehameddin Başar: There were eight madrasahs called as the Sahn Madrasahs in the Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex. Again, there were eight “tetimme” (preparatory) madrasahs for training students for these madrasahs. This was a wide university campus in today's sense and professors, their assistants called “muid”s and their students called “danişmend”s used to reside in these madrasahs and continued training twenty four hours a day. Therefore, Fatih (Mehmed II) madrasahs constitute the foundational institutions of the Istanbul University after Hagia Sophia and Zeyrek madrasahs.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: Around these 8 madrasahs, there is a library, a “Isfahan”, that is, a hospital (that can also be considered a faculty of medicine), a bath, a kitchen and other buildings. Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs developed as a university campus, a university complex with all of these buildings. This means that we can think of it as the university campus of the 15th century Ottoman State or the Ottoman Istanbul.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: Fatih (Mehmed II) madrasahs were at the current undergraduate level in the Ottoman era. They had a structure covering the undergraduate and graduate levels. Around this Fatih (Mehmed II) madrasah, there were also madrasahs at the level of high schools that could be called preparatory madrasahs. And above this there was Sahn-ı Seman Madrasah that was already the higher education section. As the ottomans established the madrasahs there from the bottom after the conquest of Istanbul, they started higher education by establishing Sahn-ı Seman as the highest-level madrasah in Istanbul.
Dr. Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi tells that that a thousand students studied, ate and resided in the madrasahs, and that they were also given a daily wage for their living expenditures.
Prof. Dr. Semavi Eyice: When Mehmed II had his own mosque built, in addition to building two madrasahs on its both sides (These were also called the Black Sea and the Mediterranean; there is one facing the Marmara Sea and also one facing the Golden Horn. One of them is called the Black Sea Madrasahs and the other one is called the Mediterranean Madrasahs), he built some smaller madrasahs in the shape of a narrow line at lower levels. However, since we do not care to preserve our history and artifacts, we have destroyed the external madrasahs located on the Golden Horn side of the Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs, and built an elementary school in its place. And on the other side, where there was a tram back then, we have taken plenty of ground from the street it was located on, the street that is called as Fevzi Paşa Street, and we have lowered the level and destroyed and removed that madrasah altogether. We have widened that street as we saw it. However, there are two mistakes there. The first mistake is that we have removed some parts of the oldest and first complex of Istanbul. The second mistake is that it is a sloping land, a hill. The buildings there sort of sustain the mosque by forming steps. Therefore, the land there is opened. It is already located on a fault line. And consequently, Fatih (Mehmed II) Mosque is harmed in every earthquake (as you know, it was already destroyed in 1776 and then the mosque we see today was built instead). We could not preserve the complex that was built after the Conquest and that we can call our first university as a whole.
It is indicated that at Sahn-ı Seman madrasahs, Theology, Law, Literature, Mathematics and Astronomy lectures were given. And at Darüşşifa that was the largest hospital of its age with its 70 ward established around the madrasah, medical courses were given.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: In this madrasah system, whether in Bukhara or in Istanbul or in Andalusia, all sciences including life sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, logic, tafsir, hadith and also the positive sciences of the time were studied. Therefore, both in the madrasahs established in these places and in the higher education madrasahs established in Istanbul, all sciences were taught. Religious training is also included in this, but the main goal is not to provide a religious training; a higher education madrasah was established in the Mehmed II era to offer normal university training.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: When we look at the madrasahs in Central Asia and particularly at the Nizamiye Madrasahs of the Seljuk era that is their most developed example, we are very surprised to see that there were philosophy and logic courses as well as all kinds of courses in religious sciences… That is because philosophy has always been a part of our educational system as it is a discipline that questions everything. Then, all life sciences are there and additionally medical sciences… Now this tradition, the Seljuks arrived in these lands with this treasure of knowledge. Now we are maintaining this tradition. We are coming to Istanbul from such a nice world of knowledge. All of the life sciences, human sciences and religious sciences are there in the Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs.
At Fatih (Mehmed II) Darüşşifa, patients are treated and medical training is provided for approximately 350 years until the 19th century. The medical training given there is considered the first core of the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine that is serving in the Çapa Campus of the Istanbul University.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: Darüşşifa is a hospital located within Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex and at the same time a university where physicians are trained in a master and apprentice approach. Of course this provides us with such an integrity when we view the issue from the perspective of the history of the Istanbul University; the higher education offered in the other fields in Sahn-ı Seman is integrated with the medical training offered at Darüşşifa, and thus, we are able to base our faculty of medicine in the current sense of university to Mehmed II's Darüşşifa. We believe that the medical training in Istanbul firstly began there. We know that training was give at the Darüşşifa's because we know the books taught there. Gali's books of that period, Hippocrates' all classical books that are taught in all medical schools of Europe, and the books of famous Islamic physicians such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Razi and Ibn Hubal were theoretically taught there.
There was also a kitchen in Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex. We have the list of those people who ate in this kitchen. We are keeping this as a proof document. In the list of those who ate at this kitchen, there are two disciples, that is, medical students recorded. They used to eat from this kitchen. These two medical students also used to reside at Darüşşifa.
Another proof we have of the medical training given there is the existence of many classical medical books of that time period in the library of Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex. If no medical was given there, what could be the reason for having so many medical books in the library? It is interpreted that these must have been the textbooks used collectively.
Darüşşifa establishments were foundations at the same time. In other words, Mehmed II had them built and then had their act prepared. In the act of foundation, there are conditions to allocate separate rooms for medical students and this fact demonstrates that there were actually medical students there.
One of the prominent physicians of the time, Şerefeddin Sabuncuoğlu, who demonstrated some of his treatment methods by miniatures in his work called as Cerrâhiyyetü'l-Hâniyye, expressed in the preface of his work that in order to rise in Mehmed II era and find favour in the sultan's eyes, it was necessary to produce scientific works. This work of Sabuncuoğlu is the only illustrated surgical book written in the Ottoman State.
For the first time at the Fatih (Mehmed II) Darüşşifa, moral qualities of the staff were defined and added to the act of foundation as a condition.
The head professor of Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs was Molla Hüsrev. It is expressed that Ali Qushji, Molla Hüsrev and Mahmud Pasha prepared the regulations and syllabus of the established madrasahs, and that Mehmed II approved those into law.
The most important person in mathematical sciences in the Mehmed II era was Ali Qushji, the founder of mathematics education. Among the significant works of Ali Qushji, there are two works he had written on astronomy and mathematics. One of them is his astronomy book that was named Fethiye because he finished it during the Battle of Otlukbeli and presented it to Mehmed II after the victory. Another significant work of Ali Qushji is his calculation book named Muhammediye. This work that had been the most widely taught calculation book in the Ottoman madrasahs until the 17th century consists of two major sections on arithmetic and land measuring. Ali Qushji determined the latitude of Istanbul as 41 degrees, 14 minutes, and its longitude as 60 degrees. These values attract attention with their closeness to the currently accepted values.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: Ali Qushji is a very valuable mathematician and astronomer that had lived around Ulugh Beg in Samarkand in the 15th century. We can summarize his contributions to the world of science as follows: It is known that after the death of Kadızade, Ulugh Beg appointed him as the head of the Samarkand Observatory. Ali Qushji participated in the preparation activities of Ulugh Beg's Zij-i Sultani, that is, the astronomical tables, which was a great scientific activity of the time, and completed these astronomical tables after the death of Kadızade. These tables are known as Ulugh Beg's Zij-i Sultani, and after they were completed they were extensively used in the Islamic and the Ottoman Worlds, and were even translated into Latin. They were used both in time calculations and in the making of calendars for many years, even centuries. Therefore, contributing to the preparation of this Zij-i Sultani is one of the values of Ali Qushji by itself.
The second is his work on the movements of the planets. That's because the geocentric system was valid at the time, and Ptolemy in AD 2nd century had theories to explain the movements of the planets. He had books. Ali Qushji studied the movements of the planets. However, he used patterns that were different from Ptolemy's for Mercury and Venus, which we call the inner planets. He used eccentric patterns that Ptolemy did not use. This knowledge reached Copernicus via Regiomontanus that is one of the 15th century European scholars. We do not know how the knowledge reached Copernicus, but today, some astronomy historians claim that he acquired them via Ali Qushji.
As Ali Qushji came to Istanbul and started to lecture at the madrasahs, a revival began in positive sciences in the Ottoman State. Mehmed II made the preparations for the brightest period of the Ottoman Civilization in the 16th century with his endeavours to establish scientific activities.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: Ali Qushji arrived in Istanbul. Upon invitation of Mehmed II… Although he did not lecture at the Fatih (Mehmed II) Madrasahs for a long time, the important thing is that his mathematics and astronomy books came to Istanbul. And brought along his advanced mathematics and astronomy knowledge in Samarkand to the Ottoman World. His students there taught this knowledge at the madrasahs.
While practically training members that were required in the government's administrative, legal and scientific areas, the Sahn madrasahs were also theoretically the centre of the Ottoman thought.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: In the structure they established, the graduates were able to start working at chairs as qadi, administrator or clerk that could get government jobs at administrative positions in the Ottoman State or to start training from the lowest level madrasahs with the title of teacher.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: Such a nice thing has never been seen at any university or madrasah that conducts academic studies. There was infinite respect for the scientists. Scientific behaviour was extremely high-level. And nobody was able to enter the madrasah rashly. They could enter only with permission. And all teachers were able to declare their opinions openly. Like our dear professors and academics are able to do in the present democratic environment.
Nearly one century after the establishment of the Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex, Suleyman the Magnificent established the Suleymaniye Complex. Mimar Sinan constructed the complex that is considered the peak of Ottoman architecture. With the madrasahs within the Suleymaniye Complex, education in the Ottoman State reached its highest level.
Considering the topics of the courses, the status of the faculty members, the rights of the students and the ways they were raised, it is observed that the madrasah system Mehmed II established was maintained in the era of Suleyman the Magnificent and afterwards. The maintenance of this system indicates that higher education in the Ottoman period was in integrity and continuity, even though it was disrupted at times.
Those that were being trained in medicine and sciences in the madrasah period were able to work at various institutions including the army or at the madrasah. Those that completed their education at the madrasah were registered in the Kazasker Book for completing their practical training and guard duty times. After completing their practical trainings, they were assigned to one of the lowest level madrasahs when it was their turn. When more than one people applied for a vacancy at the madrasah, an exam was held and the winner of the exam became a professor. Those who completed their higher education were given a madrasah diploma (icazetname). In the madrasah diplomas, information about the curriculum vitaes of the people that completed their education, the names of their teachers, the courses they had taken, their bibliographies and methods of learning was given.
Madrasahs operated until the 18th century as the major higher education institutions of the Ottoman State. However, during the time period from the establishment of Suleymaniye madrasahs to the Second Constitutional Era, that is, during three hundred fifty years from 1557 to 1908, madrasahs went through stagnation, decline and dissolution periods. Although the madrasahs increased in number, they declined in quality.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: We observe a weakening in the Ottoman State, which had a learning method peculiar to it, by 1600. We actually see that in this structure, firstly the Kelam courses, that is, the Philosophy courses were gradually cancelled, then the courses we call the positive sciences, such as physics, chemistry, mathematics and logic gradually weakened, and then the Tafsir courses were cancelled in 1600-1700's, and that the Hadith courses were also cancelled by the end of 1700's. By the end of the 1700's, Selim III made a decision; and according to this, the Ottoman State was to have a madrasah system that could not even train qadi's. The Ottoman higher madrasah system that could not even train qadi's now had to be improved or had to be assigned a new task.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: Well-trained professors moving the mechanism of justice… And also our qadi-soldiers, kazaskers, who receive the knowledge of both law and administration, that is, our administrators, the people that administer provinces and states… These are the basic points… The administrative community is weakening. Ignorant people are taking over administration. This is the cause of the collapse of the government. Unfortunately, these two factors have been as influential as economical and political difficulties in the collapse of the government and the society.
It is observed that the government still tried to take measures to stop the deterioration in higher education by the end of the 18th century. The desired results could never be obtained despite the efforts of the sultans, who wanted new measures to be applied by publishing Ferman (imperial order) and Hatt-ı Hümayun. Thus, in order to train required staff members, it was preferred to establish new schools instead of improving the madrasahs. With the influence of defeats in wars, these schools were established to meet the needs of the army.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: Tıphane-i Amire that started education on March 14, 1827. This was of course related a little bit with Mahmud II's military reform. It is known that he abolished the Janisseries and established a new army instead; Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye… He also ordered the establishment of a medical school to meet the physician requirement of this army. This school was established with the entrepreneurship of Mustafa Behçet Efendi when he was the Sultan's chief physician. In addition to this, the armies, of course, required many surgeons at those times. Surgeons could be trained more quickly with a brief education. Thus, a Cerrahhane (school for training surgeons) was opened. It was required to train both surgeons and doctors. However, these schools did not turn out to be efficient enough. There was a school named Enderun Ağaları Mektebi in the current place of Galatasaray High School in 1839. It was assigned to these medical schools and these two were unified, again by Mahmud II… A modern medical school was established there under the name Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Adliye-yi Şahane. In order to modernize the education that started there in 1839, he called a doctor from Austria, and Karl Ambros Bernard arrived as a young military physician. He organized the structuring of education. We have said that while a very high level education was being given there, the school was unfortunately opened in 1839. Unfortunately, both the library of the school and all prepared laboratories, and also its Museum of the History of Nature that was called a museum at the time, were all destroyed at a fire that took place in the fall of 1848 as most of the buildings were wooden at the time. Then the medical school entered a nomadic period because there was no building.
Darülfünun played an important role in the transition from madrasah to modern university and has a significant place in the Turkish higher education life.
The main aspect of the European style higher schools that started to be established in 18th century is the priority they used to give to meeting the urgent professional needs. With the endeavours of Muvakkat Maarif Meclisi (Transitory Education Council) that was established after the Tanzimat Fermanı (Imperial Edict of Reorganization), it was decided to go beyond the sole purpose of training professional staff and it was aimed to train people capable of understanding and interpreting the era they live in. Those that had a traditional Ottoman education and understanding of science, and those who were educated in Europe and were supporters of Western style reforms together tried to create a new educational reform. In the official edict published on July 21, 1846, there were the following expressions related with Darülfünun that was to be established:
n Darülfünun building is going to be constructed at an appropriate place in Istanbul.
n All kinds of sciences are going to be learned and taught at Darülfünun. Here, all kinds of sciences are going to be taught for “ikmal-i kemalat-ı insaniye” (the accomplishment of perfect humanity).
n Those who “aimed” to be assigned with a duty in the Ottoman Bureaucracy are going to be taught the sciences at Darülfünun.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: In 1500, printing technology entered into the lives of the European societies and states. With printing, number of books available is increased and knowledge is more easily spread out. Parallel to this, certain communities, if not the public, receive education and knowledge. Then the knowledge is reflected upon the economic area. As these countries are developing, we, unfortunately, are regressing. This was our handicap in the past. And the high officials of the government say; see how much the Europeans are progressing in sciences. So much progress in sciences. Why wouldn't we do that? It is so in their reasons… Why wouldn't we open Darülfünun? The high officials of the government should also study, obtain knowledge, get trained there, and the military and political affairs should be directed by them, these knowledgeable people… And he adds that they should train the public as well. He says that knowledge and sciences should be directed at the public. This is very important… And we have entered that, but we were a little bit late…
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: It was considered to establish a Western style university. It did not have a name at first, but it was just mentioned as the third grade. After a year, in 1846, it was named as Darülfünun, that is a sort of house of sciences and technology, and thus, the word Darülfünun entered into the literature of our near past as an equivalent to the term “university”.
Darülfünun: House of Sciences
It was planned to make Darülfünun serve in a building with rooms, classrooms, a library, a museum and laboratories. An agreement was made with the Italian architect Fossatti for the construction of the building that was to be near Hagia Sophia in 1846.
project right next to Hagia Sophia, on the land in front of the current place of the Four Seasons Hotel. Just like the universities in Europe… Its construction took quite a long time. Here we established our first Darülfünun.
In 1863, it was decided to make some of the courses as open lectures accessible to the public considering that the official opening of the building was going to take time. Some rooms were turned into classrooms as the construction continued and the conferences were started.
Chemist Derviş Pasha gave the first lecture of Darülfünun in 1863. The lecture was announced a few weeks before with a notice and comments on Mecmua-i Fünun (Journal of Sciences). In the first lecture, Derviş Pasha explained the purpose of physics and chemistry, the properties of air and other subjects including electricity in a way intelligible to the public.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: The first lecture was very crowded. Around 300 people attended. Among the participants were some high officials and officers of the government. Here Derviş Pasha explained the importance of physics and chemistry and made some experiments on electricity. Of course, these experiments attracted the attention of the public. That's because, the people of Istanbul were witnessing electricity experiments for the first time. He showed the conductivity of electricity by giving a spark to a person and having a spark again in his other hand, and this attracted so much attention that the 2nd and the 3rd conferences were held with 400-500 people.
Today, the name of Chemist Derviş Pasha is living n the street of the Institute of Eurasia, right next to the building of the Faculty of Letters of the Istanbul University.
The Darülfünun building that was completed in 1865 was given to the Ministry of Finance. The building that was used as a Court of Justice most recently was totally burned down on December 3, 1933.
As the building that was constructed as the Darülfünun building was given to the Ministry of Finance, Darülfünun temporarily moved to Nuri Pasha Mansion in Çemberlitaş, and the conferences were started again on April 19, 1865. However, the building was burned with all lecture tools and books that had been brought from Europe at a fire. Thus, the first Darülfünun was closed even before beginning regular courses.
The new building that was constructed for Darülfünun was completed in 1869. Today, the building that served for three years under the name Darülfünun-i Osmani is being used as the Press Museum.
Prof. Dr. Semavi Eyice: They costructed the building that was previously the municipality building and that is the Press Museum today, next to the Tomb of Sultan Mahmud in Çemberlitaş. We were starting firstly from the construction, the building. However, we should have established it somewhere and then constructed it its building as it developed, we were doing it in the reverse order. First of all, we constructed an enormous building, a very ornate building. The lectures were given there.
In 1869, Maarif-i Umumiye Nizamnamesi (the General Education Regulation) also came into force. The regulation, which constituted the beginning of an important era in the Ottoman educational life, was prepared by drawing on the French educational system. With the regulation, the administrative structure of Darülfünun and its syllabus were also determined. According to the Regulation, education in Darülfünun, which was to be composed of the branches of Philosophy and Literature, Sciences and Mathematics, and Law, was going to be completed in 3 years.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: There is no Faculty of Theology there, because the highest level of the madrasah is considered the university's Faculty of Theology. This acknowledgement demonstrates that a relationship between the Istanbul University and the madrasah was existent in people's minds. The other institutions including the Faculty of Letters, the Faculty of Sciences and the Faculty of Law were also opened. That's because, as we know, for an institution to be considered a western type of university, it has to have at least four faculties. And these must be the Faculty of Sciences, the Faculty of Letters, the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Theology. Here in this first organization, the three faculties were established in the western type whereas the faculty of theology was not established. There was no need for the faculty of theology because it already existed.
When the preparations for Darülfünun-i Osmani were completed, notices were put in the newspapers. More than 1000 people applied for the notices. 450 people were selected with exams and education was started. Darülfünun-i Osmani that was opened in 1870 provided education continuously until 1873. However, it is closed down because of the lack of students and teaching staff, financial difficulties and insufficient planning.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: That's because, for a university to operate there, it should have 3 foundational elements. The first is the presence of good students to come. The second is the presence of faculty members… And the third is the solid working of the structure to create its organization; that is, the financial structure should be working solidly as well.
The Ottoman Statesmen, who believed that the State needed a European style university, did not give up on this goal. This time Darülfünun was established within Galatasaray Sultani that is called as today's Galatasaray High School.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: There has been a second attempt in 1874… Establishing a Darülfünun within Galatasaray High School. The reason for the failure of the first university was the lack of high school students. This time, it was aimed to make use of the students of Galatasaray High School that was opened in 1868. Hence, a higher education was to be built upon readily available students. Since the lectures were to be given in French, a method was developed to make use of the teachers there.
Since Galatasaray Sultani was moved to Gülhane in 1873, Darülfünun-ı Sultani was also established there. A Literature School was also added later to Darülfünun-ı Sultani, which had a Civil Engineering School and a Law School. The Law School that started education in 1874 was the first higher school that offered modern law education in the Ottoman State. The Law School was later turned into the Faculty of Law of the Istanbul University, and has been a source for the other law faculties to be established in Turkey. Darülfünun-ı Sultani, where the lectures were given in Turkish and French, was closed down in 1881 after graduating students for 3 years.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: Continuity could not be obtained there. That's because, this time the problem of the graduates there, the Ottoman State's entering the war, the Ottoman-Russian War, emerged as an important factor triggering this.
Although Darülfünun-ı Sultani was closed down, it is seen that the Ottoman administrators believed that a new Darülfünun had to be opened and that they tried to do so. After the made efforts, on the 25th anniversary of Abdulhamid II's taking to the throne, that is, on September 1, 1900, Darülfünun-ı Şahane was opened. Darülfünun was established with three branches consisting of Sciences, Letters and Theology. Continuous university education was started for the first time with this institution and it took root in Turkey.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: Said Pasha, the prime minister of the grand vizier of the era, prepared a report. He says to Sultan Abdulhamid II, “My Sultan, we opened the Medical School by the end of the 1830's, and then we opened a Law School. However, they have invented the vaccine at the medical school that was opened in Vienna etc., and we cannot do this. Why? We should investigate for the reasons of this. We shall get into scientific researching just like the Europeans do.” Said Pasha had made great efforts. Sultan Abdulhamid II listened to him and created a committee, and then Darülfünun was established.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: However, the 1900 Darülfünun, which is known as Darülfünun-ı Şahane, turned out to be long-dated. It lived for 33 years until 1933, until the reformation of the Istanbul University, and it provided the substructure for the Istanbul University.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: In the Abdulhamid Era, we observe a structure that moved away from the university logic, because all of the administrators were appointed elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is an important opening that Abdulhamid made for us. And that is the inclusion of theology in Darülfünun.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: When we look at our medical training, we see two peaks. The first is the 1839-1848 Galatasaray Period, and the second is the period after 1903, that lasted for 10-15 years until the wars. That's because, unfortunately the wars started right after that. This period starts with the Tripoli War in 1911. Immediately after that the Balkan Wars, then World War I, and then the War of Independence came up, and the country had no money left to invest in medical training or in any other fields. Then a civilian medical school was established in 1867; Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-yi Mülkiye. In 1909, the military medical school and the civilian medical school were unified and took the name faculty of medicine.
The name of the institution that started to be known as Darülfünun-ı Osmani in the first years of the Second Constitutional Era was turned into Istanbul Darülfünun especially by the year 1913.
Darülfünun was moved to Zeynep Hanım Mansion in Vezneciler in these years. The building that was located at the current place of the Faculty of Letters and Faculty of Sciences served the university students and professor until it became unusable at a fire that happened in 1942.
It was aimed to establish a sort of university with 5 faculties by taking the previously established Medical School and Law School under Darülfünun, and adding the branches of Letters, Sciences and Theology to these. It was decided to add a Philology department to Darülfünun and teach English, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Persian and Turkish there. The Schools of Pharmacy and Dentistry were connected to the Faculty of Medicine and operated at the building of the Medical School in Kadırga. The Faculty of Medicine, on the other hand, continued offering education in Haydarpaşa.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: We observe dissolution in the faculties in the Second Constitutional Era. There was going to be transition to departments in faculties. Faculty councils were going to be established in 1911. Faculty councils meant that they had the right to choose, even though arranging the syllabus, selecting and appointing the faculty members could be done from above. And additionally, there was going to be a transition to a dual structure that included extremely important issues such as determining the salaries of the faculty members and that also selected the head of the faculty, that is, there was a faculty director and there was also a head of the faculty. This was an extremely significant stage. With the establishment of these faculty councils, an important step towards autonomous universities was taken. Here the students were going to be free to become organized. Now that the students were going to be free to become organized even in the political field. They had the right to become organized as they liked within the faculty. There was only one condition; they had to inform the university administration. The faculty members were also free to enter politics, but they were not allowed to talk about politics in class in anyway. We know that commitment letters were received from them.
The political and military closeness that we had with the Germans during the World War I years between 1914 and 1918 influenced the area of education as well. It was decided to supply Darülfünun's faculty member deficiency with faculty members to be brought from Germany. Upon the request of the Ottoman State from Germany, 20 faculty members came and began lecturing at Darülfünun.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: Faculty members arrived particularly from Germany and the geography dominated by the Germans and lectured at the Istanbul University. When England invaded Istanbul by the end of 1918, all of the Germans had to be sent, that was one of their conditions. The German faculty members had to discontinue their beneficial studies in the Second Constitutional Era and leave the country.
In World War I, a total of 765 students from the Faculty of Medicine were called to the army and 346 of them were martyrized.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: When these wars began, the faculty of medicine played an important role in saving the country with its professors and students. The professors were distributed to fronts. The students were distributed to fronts. People were martyrized, training was disrupted, and some exams were worked in. Training was accelerated. Training was continued in some way because it has to be continued. There were too many military healthcare centres at the fronts, and doctors were needed in the fronts. Doctors were being trained in an accelerated way on the one hand, and on the other hand; some of the professors went out to the field and helped the healthcare services in the army.
The Istanbul University students, faculty members and staff, who do not forget their students martyrized in Çanakkale, go to the fields of the war in procession every year, and to commemorate the martyrs in the night connecting May 18 to May 19.
One of the greatest developments experienced in these years was having girl students receive higher education under the roof of Darülfünun. The lectures given to girls officially began in Zeynep Hanım Mansion under the name “İnas Darülfünun” in 1914. İnas Darülfünun had its first graduates in 1917. A total of 18 girl students graduated. When new arrangements were being made in Darülfünun in 1919, it was decided to apply the syllabus with the same faculty members at İnas Darülfünun. In the meantime, girl students began participating in the classes of boy students, and İnas Darülfünun was actually cancelled. Darülfünun Council officially approved this actual situation with a decision made on September 16, 1921.
It is observed that the first serious endeavours to establish the autonomous Darülfünun were brought up by the faculty members of the Faculty of Letters in these years. Especially Ziya Gökalp and İsmail Hakkı Baltacıoğlu defended that science could only arise by providing an independent environment for the scientists.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: A serious work was conducted particularly on the Faculty of Letters in order o develop an autonomous university. As these studies were being completed in 1918, another invasion took place in Istanbul. In the invaded Istanbul, the scientific autonomy of the universities was realized for the first time. With the Darülfünun Regulation issued in 1919, the university was registered for the first time as autonomous.
After the end of World War I in 1918, the Entente Powers waiting in front of Istanbul invaded the city. The first institution to react to the invasion of the city was Darülfünun. During those difficult days, both the students and the professors of Darülfünun and the senior administrators became close to Ankara Government that was struggling for liberation.
The tradition of celebrating the Medicine Day every year also emerges those years.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: Istanbul was occupied on November 13, 1918. The Faculty of Medicine was a boarding school in Haydarpaşa. When the students woke up in the morning, they saw the warships of the occupying forces in front of their school. Dark clouds covered the city. Those who ran away joined Kuvayi Milliye. The English occupied a part of the school. The students and the English had to live together in the school. There are many interesting stories about that. Of course, the occupying forces were very powerful, and they took possession of everything. They were dominating in every field. The students wanted to make a protest against them, but they know that they would be taken away whatever they do. They had to do it very smartly. They decided to make a celebration ceremony. They said that they were going to celebrate the anniversary of the first medical school that was opened in 1827. There was the Darülfünun Conference Hall next to Zeynep Hanım Mansion. They held a meeting there. They invited all of the notable professors of the faculty such as Akil Muhtar to the meeting. They also invited people from the occupying forces. Also the Red Cross was of course present in Istanbul as an occupying element. They invited the officials of the Red Cross. They made speeches, but the speeches were extremely heroic. They made a meeting that had an implied message about the liberation of the country, what had to be done for saving the people, how great a history we had, how important our medical education is, how old it is, our old professors, their services. The students spoke with applauses. It left a very nice trace, and of course, the occupation of Istanbul did not immediately end. They decide to do it every year. They organized it again the next year. Therefore, that day is set as the Medicine Day. Since the students set it, it arose from the medicine spirit. It became a tradition afterwards, and we are celebrating it today as March 14, the Medicine Day. However, beneath it is such a protest. March 14, the Medicine Day is a very smartly planned day for protesting the occupying forces.
Immediately after winning the great victory, on September 19, 1922, the Faculty of Letters decided to give Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the leader of the National Struggle, the title of honorary professor upon the suggestion of Professor Yahya Kemal Bey.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: As a result of its autonomous structure, Istanbul Darülfünun acted bravely enough to demonstrate an attitude different from the administration even in the period when Istanbul was invaded. This had a legal base too. It was also a symbol of the fact that the faculty members could resist the invasion. It was not possible for a country to resist physically if it could not resist mentally. Therefore, the Istanbul University also has such a function. It was the institution that served as the brain of the National Struggle. When Izmir was invaded, they immediately protested it from here. When the Treaty of Sevres was signed, they organized a protest meeting against Sevres. Even more importantly, the occupied the Istanbul University gave Mustafa Kemal Pasha the title of honorary professor. Istanbul was still occupied, and the students there were organizing meetings for the leader of the national struggle. They were organizing meetings for supporting Kuvayi Milliye. In addition to organizing these meetings, our students came up with a suggestion. They suggest that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who is such a hero and a political genius, should be given the title of Honorary Professor. Yahya Kemal Beyatlı, one of the professors of the Istanbul University's Faculty of Letters, presented this idea of the students to the Faculty of Letters' Council as a proposal. This proposal was accepted and Atatürk was given this title. This title was not a doctorate title, but directly a professor title. This is extremely important, because this is a title exceeding Honorary Doctorate. The Istanbul University did not give Mustafa Kemal Atatürk an Honorary Doctorate, but an Honorary Professor title. And Mustafa Kemal Atatürk accepted this professor title that was given to him in 1922. What is the meaning of this acceptance? Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became a faculty member to the Istanbul University, which was named as the Istanbul Darülfünun at the time. This means that if Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was to be a faculty member somewhere, he was a faculty member of the Istanbul University.
Upon the decision, Mustafa Kemal Pasha sent a telegram to thank. The telegram contained the following expressions;
“Thank you for choosing me as the honorary professor of your faculty, which is the centre of Turkish culture. I am sure your faculty will accomplish our national independence in the field of letters. For me, it is a pride to be a member of your delegation that undertakes this honourable development.”
Prof. Dr. Fehameddin Başar: Darülfünun was the highest educational institution of the Ottoman State after the madrasahs, and while all scientists and professors of our country were lecturing there, the foundational cadres that were going to transform our country into a modern republic were also raised there. This did not happen only in the fields of law, letters and medicine, but in all fields; also in politics, the politicians to lead our country were trained in Darülfünun and they lectured there, and when the young Turkish Republic was established in 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took these scholars trained in Darülfünun by his side in order to develop this Republic, and he acted together with them. The brain team of the young, modern Turkish Republic consisted of these cadres. Among them were poets, thinkers and writers such as Ziya Gökalp, Fuat Köprülü, Yahya Kemal and Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, who lectured at Darülfünun. It is impossible to mention the names of all scholars that were professors at Darülfünun. Those were shaping the future of Turkey and training students that were going to shape the future of Turkey.
After the victory of the War of Independence, important steps related with Darülfünun were taken. One of the most important problems of Darülfünun at those times was its lack of a sufficient building. All of Darülfünun except for the Faculty of Medicine was operating in Zeynep Hanım Mansion in those days. After Ankara was announced as the capital city, the ministries were moved to the capital. The Ministry of War building that was left empty for this reason was assigned to Darülfünun with an official writing in 1923.
Zeynep Hanım Mansion was allocated to the Faculty of Sciences and Higher School of Teaching; the Former Gendarmerie Command building was allocated to the Schools of Pharmacy and Dentistry; Medresetü'l Kuzat building was allocated to the library of Darülfünun. With all these arrangements, it was aimed to create a Darülfünun quarter in Beyazıt. Today, the street passing in front of the Faculty of Sciences in Vezneciler is still called Darülfünun Street.
In the same period, in order to create a richer library, 7129 hand-written books and 31319 printed books from Yıldız Palace and 3998 books of Hakkı Pasha were brought to Darülfünun. Also the books of Rıza Pasha, Halis Efendi and Sahib Mollazade İbrahim Bey were purchased for Darülfünun. With all these works, the library also acquired the identity of a museum. Today, the Istanbul University has one of the greatest book collections of Turkey with the books in the libraries created at all faculties and units, particularly the Central Library and the Library of Rare Works.
The First Years of the Republic
After the declaration of the Republic, important work was conducted on all educational institutions throughout the country until the University Reform in 1933. Many developments related with Darülfünun happened in this period. In 1924, Darülfünun was given the right to be administered with supplementary budget and a legal personality.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: In 1924, after the establishment of the Republic, this structure was going to be transferred just as it is. The establishment of a completely autonomous university was going to be provided by giving it also financial and administrative autonomy. In this sense, the 1924 university regulation was the date the Republic established the Istanbul University autonomously. And this is a significant turning point in our recent history for this autonomy was now going to provide that the university had the right to make decisions in all kinds of issues with a very important understanding.
According to the Tevhid-i Tedrisat (Unification of Education) Law dated March 3, 1924, it was decided to open a Faculty of Theology within Darülfünun in order to train high religion specialists. The students that were being trained at undergraduate level at Suleymaniye Madrasah after the madrasahs were closed were transferred to the Faculty of Theology. With the establishment of the Faculty of Theology in 1924, the number of faculties in Darülfünun became five.
The founder of our Republic, Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who attached great importance to the field of education, visited Darülfünun twice, first in 1930 and then in 1933. The students in the classrooms cheered at Atatürk from the windows. Ghazi Mustafa Kemal conversed with the faculty members and participated in the lectures. One of the students in the classroom when Atatürk came in the class was Taha Toros… Taha Toros, who is 101 years old today, was a freshman in the Faculty of Law those days.
Taha Toros:. He walked in suddenly. Ali Kemal was our professor, Ali Kemal Elbir… Dear Ghazi, please come in, he said. He wanted to have him beside himself, at the chair. No, he said, I will sit among the gentlemen students. Here is that picture… There he came, Atatürk sat among us. He came suddenly, without notification. You see that he is wearing his coat whereas we are not. He sat in his coat. Across him is his assistant Recep Paker. He was with Atatürk.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's visit to the Istanbul University was announced in the headlines of the newspapers of the time.
At the end of his visit, Atatürk wrote the following lines in the diary of Darülfünun:
“I have been very pleased to meet high professors and precious young people closely at the Istanbul Darülfünun. There is no doubt that we will take pride in the great services of this high institution that is the symbol of learning.”
Gazi Mustafa Kemal
A university reform was conducted in the 10th year of the Republic under the leadership of Atatürk. The amendments were made taking the report into consideration that Albert Malche prepared. He was a faculty member of the University of Geneva and was invited to Turkey by the government.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: Now, on the one hand, we maintained the madrasah, and on the other hand, we opened Darülfünun. Now there is a gap between the two of them, and we still couldn't disseminate education. That is our fault. Darülfünun made a nice beginning, then continued and reached as far as the 1930's. Here is a report of our late professor İsmail Hakkı Baltacıoğlu, who had contributed immensely, which will make you both cry and be happy. He used to express both deficiencies and beauties bravely. During those years, there was a Swiss scientist of German origin called as Malche. He used to talk to our Professor İsmail Baltacıoğlu and be gratified… However, as an academic, is the academic life like that in Europe, in Germany, in Switzerland? No, it's not. That's because, unfortunately we have reflected the madrasah system on Darülfünun to a certain extent.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: This should not be forgotten; the years between 1924-1930 constitute a period in which Atatürk conducted reform projects on primary and secondary education. We can describe the time period after 1930, on the other hand, as the period in which mostly work on higher education was conducted in the field of education. By 1929, Darülfünun started to be discussed. The issue discussed about Darülfünun was the view that Darülfünun was not sufficient and that Darülfünun had to be renewed. Including Darülfünun itself, there was a common opinion that Darülfünun was not sufficient and that Darülfünun had to be reformed and renewed.
By the decision of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, instead of Darülfünun that was closed down on July 31, 1933, the Istanbul University was established on August 1, 1933. The Istanbul University began education as “the first and only university” of Turkey in November.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: The reform in the Istanbul University was actually a result of Atatürk's idea of creating a modern university. This means that with the Republic, the reform aimed to have a university that thought in an enlightened way, provided education at the level of the knowledge taught in Europe, produced knowledge, conducted scientific research and produced ideas.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: Which of my academic friends has read 3997 books? Atatürk has! When I was the head of Atatürk Studies, I used to go and investigate these. 90% of them are in Anıtkabir. Some of them are in the former Assembly building. And some of them are at our university. This is a treasure. This indicates that if a person reads and acquires knowledge, s/he sees things more clearly and becomes more successful. The great success of our Atatürk and his services to our people and country are based on this knowledge. Just like Mehmed II centuries ago.
After the university reform, some of the faculty members of Darülfünun were dismissed and some of them continued to be a part of the teaching staff of the Istanbul University.
The first rector of the Istanbul University was Dist. Prof. Dr. Neşet Ömer İrdelp. The first Dean of the Faculty of Medicine was Dist. Prof. Dr. Tevfik Sağlam, the first Dean of the Faculty of Sciences was Dist. Prof. Dr. Kerim Erim, the first Dean of the Faculty of Law was Dist. Prof. Dr. Tahir Taner, and the first Dean of the Faculty of Letters was Dist. Prof. Dr. Fuat Köprülü.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: In 1933, fresh blood became necessary to raise the Istanbul University to the desired level. This was obtained in two ways. The first was that the conditions of the period were appropriate, and the scientists that had to leave Germany were invited to Turkey. However, before that, by 1929's, the Government of the Republic sent many young Turkish people to Europe to train new members for the university to be established. They called back these young Turkish people who studied abroad in Germany and generally in France after the reform in 1933. They started modern education with foreign professors.
The first group that was sent to Europe for educational purposes in the Republic Era had set off in 1925. The 22 young people that succeeded in the Ministry of Education's Europe Examination were sent to Germany, France and Belgium for education.
Sadi Irmak, who was sent to University of Berlin and started working for the Istanbul University as an associate professor was among these people. Dist. Prof. Dr. Sadi Irmak established the Istanbul University Institute of Atatürk's Principles and Reforms, and has been in politics. Sadi Irmak has been Turkey's first minister of labour in 1945, and Prime Minister in 1974.
Prof. Dr. Yakut Özden Irmak (Daughter of Dist. Prof. Dr. Sadi Irmak): When he was studying at the Faculty of Law, he saw an ad in the university corridor. An ad put by Atatürk. A certain number of students were going to be sent abroad. Those students were going to be sent after being selected by an examination, and my father applied for it and he was one of the winners. My father told about those days always excitedly. Of course, it was going to be the first time to go abroad for him. The world was not like today at those times too. That is, he was a young man who was born in Seydişehir at those times, and he had seen Istanbul at most. They were actually going towards an unknown; were they going to be penniless, helpless there? Was the government really going to access them and give at least some of the money that they had promised? Of course, in such a distress, they were going to go to Europe by the only means of transportation of the time, that is, train. When he was waiting for departure time of the train at the Sirkeci Train Station in hesitation and distress, the postman came running. There were no surnames back then, and called my late father, “Mahmut Sadi, Mahmut Sadi!” And he handed him a telegraph. Atatürk sent the telegraph to the whole group. It said: “I am sending you out as sparks. You will return as torches.” Later on, my late father expresses those feelings of his many times both in his speeches and his writings. “Suddenly, all of our hesitations disappeared,” he said. “Atatürk was sending us, and there could be no honour, no pride greater than that.” And with the eagerness to be worthy of what is expected from them, they set off together. As far as I know, all of them became successful. They were all trained in various branches, received education and became successful, and all of them actually returned to their home country and continued to enlighten around themselves like torches for years in Turkey of the time.
In 1928, a second group was also sent to Europe for education. Among them was Nüzhet Gökdoğan, who was trained at the University of Lyon in France in the field of Astronomy. Nüzhet Gökdoğan was appointed the first Turkish associate professor at the Department of Astronomy that was established at the Istanbul University's Faculty of Sciences in 1934. Prof. Dr. Nüzhet Gökdoğan, who served the Department of Astronomy for 46 years, has been the first woman astronomer, the first woman senator and the first woman dean of Turkey.
Prof. Dr. Gönül Gökdoğan (Daughter of Prof. Dr. Nüzhet Gökdoğan): My mother came to the Istanbul University as an associate professor. The university reform had been accomplished and foreign professors had arrived at the time. Since my mother spoke foreign languages, she started to translate their lectures. She herself began to be trained beside them as well. Professor Freundlich, who was one of Einstein's students, was also there at the time. Professor Freundlich made my mother complete a doctorate related with solar observations that was an Astrophysics doctorate; and when my mother was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, when he became the first woman dean of Turkey in 1956 or 1957, if I'm not mistaken, she signed her own diploma as the dean, and that became the first diploma of the Faculty of Sciences with number one. This is, of course, very interesting. Both the fact that she completed that doctorate with such a valuable professor, and that she signed it herself are very remarkable points.
Students continued to be sent to Europe after the 1933 University Reform, too. Among those people was Oktay Aslanapa. Aslanapa, who was sent to Vienna to be educated in the field of Turkish-Islamic Arts in 1938, returned to Turkey after the university reform and started to work at the Istanbul University.
Prof. Dr. Oktay Aslanapa: I have graduated from the Faculty of Letters in 1938. After graduation, the ministry made a Europe exam. A graduate student was going to be sent to Europe to specialize in Turkish-Islamic arts. I took the exam. There were also other branches. I won that exam.
In 1942, I completed my doctorate degree and returned to Turkey. There was nothing like art history at the Istanbul University until that time, it did not even have a name, it was just established. We started art history institute studies for the first time in Turkey at the Istanbul University, and by coincidence, Ernst Dietz from Vienna was appointed as the head of the institute. He was my professor in Vienna. When we met, he immediately made me an assistant. And we started working by the end of 1943.
After the university reform, the scientists that were forced to leave their country because of the pressure of the National Socialist administration in Germany came to Istanbul and started working as faculty members.
Prof. Dr. Oktay Aslanapa: The Jewish professors were in danger, that is, their lives were in danger. Under such conditions, Atatürk wanted them to be invited to Turkey. 200 professors arrived. Among them were professors of German origin that were not of Jewish origin. They came with the others because they were against the regime of Hitler.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: The Republic of Turkey took them under its wings. It both showed the importance it attached to humanitarian values and the importance it attached to science. These scientists lectured at many faculties of the Istanbul University – some of them were in Ankara too, but since we are talking about our university, I am mentioning only them – but they were majorly lecturing at the Faculty of Medicine. Among those were a number of very famous scientists. They were people with worldwide known inventions, such as Erich Frank and Hugo Braun in Microbiology, and Friedrich Dessauer in Radiology. Of course, a restructuring was carried out in the university for them. Tools and equipment… Faculty of Medicine of the Istanbul University began its third rising period.
Prof. Dr. Semavi Eyice: A tremendous professor migration from Germany happened and we accepted them all. Among those were some professors of the highest levels in some branches.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: This was teamwork. It did not consist of just bringing the foreign professors, but there were also young Turkish people that they could trust and that knew the Western science, the European science. New knowledge that was being taught at the European universities came in this new university together with them. These foreign professors wrote textbooks and their assistants translated those into Turkish, and provided the university students with textbooks containing modern knowledge. On the other hand, the education that was based on the theory previously developed in the direction of practice, that is, training methods were also renewed. The students and the assistants learned to conduct experiments at the laboratories by themselves. They both conducted experiments and had experiments conducted. The foreign professors took their young Turkish colleagues with them to their field trips, and most importantly, the doctorates that were the results of scientific studies were started. The first doctorates were completed 5-6 years after the reform, and I believe that this was one of the most significant contributions.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özdoğan: At the Istanbul University, cooperation is carried out in perfect harmony and science ethics and understanding; everything harmonizes with each other so well and the coming professors like the place so much that they do everything they can to train the future generations. Of course, I could barely catch that; I managed to attend the last seminars of Professor Bittel when I was there. It was a mind-opening world. But there was already a generation he raised.
The fact that Turkey accepted the scientists, who had to leave their home countries, together with their families, and even provided them with a working environment in which they could perform their own professions created a deep feeling of gratitude in those faculty members. One of the faculty members that came to Turkey was Dist. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Gleissberg, who started lecturing at the Department of Astronomy in the Istanbul University in 1934. With the effect of these feelings, Dist. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Gleissberg named a small planet he found Ankara, the capital of the Republic of Turkey. And Ingrid Oppermann also came to Istanbul at a very early age because of her father's work and studied in Istanbul for a very long time.
Ingrid Oppermann (Daughter of Dist. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Gleissberg): My father received a letter from Hitler in September 1933. In that letter, Hitler said: “Since you are a member of a despicable race, you are not worthy of teaching German university students. You are immediately dismissed from your job.” He received this letter in September. Of course, he did not know where to go. His chief that was working at the same institute, Professor Freundlich also received a similar letter. Freundlich was Jewish, and my father's mother was Jewish. Of course, thousands of people were dismissed from their jobs like my father and Freundlich. An organization was founded in Switzerland. The father-in-law of Professor Schwartz, who was dismissed from Germany, was living in Switzerland. He founded an organization with his help. All scientists that were forced to leave Germany managed to apply there and find other jobs. Atatürk wanted to reform the new university. He was looking for professors for 5 faculties. Here was a professor named Malche. He was a Swiss pedagogue, I guess. Atatürk gave this job to him. He told him to bring 5 professors for 5 faculties… The Swiss Professor Malche was informed by this organization and said, “I will not bring Swiss professors, I will bring German professors. That's because there are many of them that are dismissed from their jobs.” Then not only 5, but 50 or 150, maybe even more of them arrived there. My father began working for the Istanbul University on January 1, 1934.
Of course, there was no observatory back then. My father and Professor Freundlich came here together and drew the plans of this building. The building was constructed in accordance with the plans in 1935, I guess, and it was opened. My father signed a contract with the Government of Atatürk. There was a condition in this contract: All of the scientists coming to Turkey shall learn Turkish and write textbooks in Turkish. My father came here and began giving his lectures with a translator. He took lessons everyday, and in eight months, he started to give his lectures in Turkish. My father spoke Turkish perfectly, and he was the one that translated many Astronomy terms from Ottoman to Turkish.
Of course, not all of the academics that had to leave Germany could find jobs at universities. Some of them went to work at the factories in Japan and England and had very simple jobs. It was very important to work in his own discipline for my father. All Turkish academics welcomed the ones coming from other countries and they supported them in a great deal… Therefore, there were no obstacles in front or academic work. I am still coming here every year, and I have had a very happy, peaceful and problem-free childhood and early life in this city. And I have always felt this gratitude of my father and my mother. They have always been very grateful.
In memory of these days, a memorial stone was placed in the Main Campus of the Istanbul University that is located in Beyazıt in 1986. On the stone is a thanking message in both Turkish and German.
“With my gratitude to the Turkish people and their academic institutions that have taken German faculty members under their wings between 1933 and 1945 under the leadership of President Atatürk on behalf of the German Nation.”
Richard von Weizsacker
President of the Federal Republic
of Germany, May 29, 1986
Together with the scientists coming from abroad, many Turkish scientist contributed to making the Istanbul University a brilliant institution in the national and international areas. Dist. Prof. Dr. Cemil Topuzlu, Dist. Prof. Dr. Mazhar Osman Uzman, Dist. Prof. Dr. Hulusi Behçet, Dist. Prof. Dr.Sıddık Sami Onar, Prof. Dr. Cahit Ar are only some of them.
With the University Reform, the Faculty of Medicine in Haydarpaşa was moved to the European side as well. The medical education and services that were previously being carried out at a few different places, are presently being offered at İstanbul Faculty of Medicine in Çapa Campus and at Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine in Cerrahpaşa Campus.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: One of the most important changes that were made in 1933 was moving the faculty from Haydarpaşa. Cerrahpaşa was a municipality hospital at the time. However, moving to Cerrahpaşa contributed to the establishment of some clinics and a second faculty there. Today, both the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine and the Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine are among the leading faculties of medicine in terms of training and practice as well as the challenging surgeries performed in our country. The Istanbul University also has contributed to the establishment of other faculties of medicine. One of them is the Faculty of Medicine of the Trakya University in Edirne. Another is the Faculty of Medicine of the Uludağ University in Bursa.
The person who has designed the logos of both the Istanbul University and the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine is Dist. Prof. Dr. Süheyl Ünver, who was both a physician and an artist… Süheyl Ünver, who established the Institute of the History of Medicine in the Istanbul University's Istanbul Faculty of Medicine, and the Chair of the History of Medicine and the Chair of Deontology in the Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine, was also the person to carry the traditional Turkish decorative arts to date. Süheyl Ünver's more than 2 thousand notebooks, which contain his drawings, illumination works, miniatures and water colour drawings that he made by making studies at the libraries and archives and also examining the historic works in person, is a great source of attraction for those who study the past.
Ünver has also conducted studies on the Fatih (Mehmed II) Complex and the Fatih (Mehmed II) Darüşşifa that are very significant in the history of the Istanbul University, and made drawings based on the information he obtained.
Gülbün Mesara (Daughter of Dist. Prof. Dr. Süheyl Ünver): He always said, “I am not painting with the purpose of making art. The pictures I draw are the pictures of neighbourhoods and buildings that will not exist years later. These are documents.” And he sometimes put very touching notes on them.
In the founding years of the Republic of Turkey, the faculty members of the Istanbul University were not only serving in Istanbul, but also all over the country. The studies conducted in the field of archaeology constitute one of the most important parts of this.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özdoğan: There were many qualified Turkish professors such as Arif Müfit Mansel from the first establishment. Of course, the contribution of also the German professors shouldn't be ignored. This is valid for the whole Istanbul University, as Atatürk accepted all scientists running away from Germany in Turkey, as he invited them there, a great mass came in at once and this brought in a universal conception. There were many archaeologists among those. Professor Bossert, and then Bittel and Emin Bosh came here… It was established here with the most qualified professors of the west.
Halet Çambel, who began working at the Istanbul University in 1940 after being trained at the Sorbonne University in France, is also among the most prominent people that have contributed to archaeological studies in Turkey.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özdoğan: The approaches Professor Halet Çambel brought, those theories and viewpoints are the things that have very recently come up for discussion in the world.
Prof. Dr. Halet Çambel, who is 94 years old today, is still working actively as the head of the excavation in Osmaniye. Halet Çambel, who established the first open-air museum of Turkey bringing together thousands of broken pieces for 63 years, is putting efforts to bring archaeology together with the society.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özdoğan: The Istanbul University has an undeniable importance not only for the Turkish archaeology, but also for the history of civilization. There are many organizations, institutions and scientists conducting excavations in Turkey. The Istanbul University has many projects, but it has always been the engine of modern archaeology and replacing traditional archaeology with modern archaeology in Turkey. The high number of the excavations of the Istanbul University, their diversity and the fact that they are all over Turkey is something different… But beyond this, the Istanbul University have always led the way in bringing in archaeology new methods, a new viewpoint, diversifying the questions we used to ask in the past and in keeping up with the developments in the world. And in Turkey, the Istanbul University has always been the pioneer of bringing in all areas such as archaeometry, geoarchaeology, environmental, archaeology and bioarchaeology. The archaeologists at the Istanbul University constitute a very good generation that finds acceptance everywhere in the world today and that can stand on their feet everywhere with their science. The younger generation following us, that is, following me is even better than us. This is something great. It means that when I retire, I will be very happy about the staff I am leaving behind.
A Bridge of Sciences from the Past to the Future
According to the reports prepared by the Council of Higher Education, the Istanbul University is a university that produces the greatest number of academic publications in Turkey. It is ranked within the “Top 500 Universities of the World” according to a research by the Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. It has academics that produce pioneering studies in the fields of Social Sciences, Life Sciences and Health Sciences under its roof.
The Istanbul University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine faculty member Prof. Dr. Sema Birler is one of these scientists. Prof. Dr. Sema Birler is the head of the team that brought the first clone sheep of Turkey called Oyalı into the world.
Prof. Dr. Sema Birler: We have realized the first cloning project in our country in 2007, and the first clone animal of our country called Oyalı was born in November 2007.
Prof. Dr. Serhat Pabuccuoğlu: As the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Istanbul University, we have always performed innovations and this continued in the field of cloning, and the first cloned animal of our country, Oyalı, was born in our faculty.
Prof. Dr. Sema Birler: This is our educational institution, and the young people, the future scientists of our country, are very important for us, and we are organizing a number of courses for their training. In addition to this, our young people that are interested in this subject are always welcome. There are both our assistants and our students in the faculty, and also there are many people applying to us for internship from many places in Turkey, and we are also accepting those.
Another pioneering scientist is Prof. Dr. Reşat Apak… The CUPRAC Method that is developed by Prof. Dr. Reşat Apak, faculty member of the Faculty of Engineering of the Istanbul University, now more easily detects the antioxidants that reduce the risk of cancer, Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular diseases.
Prof. Dr. Reşat Apak: We have developed a selective, sensitive antioxidant determination method that is accepted by the science circles of the world. Its name is CUPRAC which stands for ‘the Cupric Reducing Antioxidant Capacity Determination Method'. We have brought in this name to the world literature in 2004. We have written 40-45 articles about the subject. We have received around 600 references since 2004.
The physicians of the Istanbul University that had the two largest faculties of medicine in Turkey are also developing new methods for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Prof. Dr. Alper Toker, a faculty member of the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine of the Istanbul University is among these scientists. The method he has developed has been a hope for cancer patients since it is used to take systematic samples from the lymph glands and provide a complete cleaning in left lung cancer cases.
Prof. Dr. Alper Toker: Our competence at the Istanbul University is not based on individual competence. The success of my work is not based only on the surgery I perform. It is based on the synergy that is created by the strong collaboration of my assistants, the nurses, intensive care unit, thoracic diseases unit, radiology, nuclear medicine, biochemistry, pathology and many other branches. If we try to do something today as Alper Toker and the Department of Thoracic Surgery, believe me, we would be somewhere much lower than we are today. The Istanbul University is the best, the number one place in Turkey for conducting the right studies and academic work in this context in Turkey.
Mehmet Özdoğan, Sema Birler, Reşat Apak, Alper Toker and many other academics have been working in order to discover information that will contribute to the development of the society.
The Istanbul University also provides the undergraduate students with an environment available for producing scientific projects. Socrat is a project developed by the students of the Faculty of Engineering of the Istanbul University and it is the 2009 and 2010 champion of the Formula-G Solar Car Race that is organized by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). The Socrat team is preparing for the World Championship to be held in Australia in 2011.
Sertel Tanta: Socrat is a student project of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of the Istanbul University. At the same time, SOCRAT is an electrical car that is produced in order to create public awareness about the use of alternative energy sources. It is a self-charging car. In this context, we are participating in the Formula-G Car Race that is being organized by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK)- for 6 years, the 7th will be held this year – for the last two years, and we have been the champion of Turkey for the last two years. And now we will participate in the World Solar Challenge 2011 Race – that is the most prestigious solar car race of the world-, which will be held in Australia.
Tolga Baykal: When we were choosing these materials in 2008, of course, we did not have any financial sources. We could only choose them in theory. The Istanbul University is a university with a quite high project research and development budget. The Scientific Research Projects unit (BAP) has supported us substantially in this issue.
Serdar Zurnacı: Our natural sources are constantly getting depleted, and when petroleum is finished one day, our only energy sources will be the renewable energy sources such as the wind and the sun. Thus, every step taken towards the alternative energy sources is our future.
Today there are 20 faculties within the Istanbul University:
The Istanbul Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Letters, the Faculty of Sciences, the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Forestry, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Faculty of Dentistry, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Business Management, the Faculty of Political Sciences, the Faculty of Communications, the Faculty of Fisheries, the Faculty of Theology. And the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Open and Distance Learning and Faculty of Nursing, which were established in 2010, were recently added to Hasan Ali Yücel Teacher Training Faculty.
In addition to the faculties, there are 3 departments, 8 schools, 16 institutes, 61 application and research centres and the state conservatory. There are approximately 5,000 academics and 7,000 administrative staff to serve 74,000 students in the Istanbul University. The symbol of the university that is operating in 12 different campuses consisting of Beyazıt Center, Laleli-Vezneciler, Vefa, Horhor, Avcılar, Çapa, Cerrahpaşa, Şişli, Kadıköy, Bahçeköy, Bakırköy and Büyükçekmece, is the historic campus located in Beyazıt…
The campus, which is located on the historic peninsula of Istanbul, both right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city, and within a great garden, is also very significant for its architectural buildings with historical and aesthetical values.
The main campus of the Istanbul University in Beyazıt was formerly being used as the Ministry of War. This building was given to the Istanbul University on September 12, 1923.
The Main building that was built in three floors was constructed with an eclectic style in which more than one style was used. Especially the marble columns, the stone engravings and the ornaments on the walls and the ceiling of the Blue Hall are some of the most remarkable aspects of the building. Today, a large part of the building is used as the administrative management centre of the Istanbul University, and at the same time, with the academic meetings, exhibitions and concerts held there, it is the most important culture and art centre of the university.
The most famous section of the main campus is the main entrance gate, the picture of which was printed on the TRY 500 banknotes that were available between 1971 and 1984.
Previously, there was a very different building on the current place of this main entrance gate. This initial gate that was constructed in 1827 was very similar to the huge gate of the Sublime Port (Bâb-ı Âli) on its Soğukçeşme – Alay Pavillion side. While the Sublime Port (Bâb-ı Âli) represented the power of the state in the Ottoman State, the Serasker Gate represented the military force.
The construction of the current gate was started in 1864. In the widening work that was started in Beyazıt Square in 1869, the new Serasker Gate and the pavilions on each side of the gate were used as the main elements of the square.
This monumental door is not only the symbol of the Istanbul University, but also the symbol of “the concept of university” in Turkey. Entering the university also means entering this door with dreams.
Another historic architectural building in the main campus is the Istanbul University Beyazıt Fire Tower. Actually, two other towers had been built before the present tower. The first of the towers, which were built in order to identify and intervene in the fires in Istanbul quickly, was constructed in 1749, and the second was constructed in 1826 as wooden buildings. The third tower that we see today was built by order of Sultan Mahmud II. It has 4 floors consisting of the flag floor, basket floor, signal floor and watch floor from top to bottom. On the side of the tower overlooking Beyazıt Square, there is an epigraph bearing the signature of Sultan Mahmud II.
Beyazıt Fire Tower, one of the most important silhouettes of Istanbul, can be viewed from many parts of Istanbul. Therefore, the Fire-watch Tower was also used to notify weather for some time. Yellow indicated fog, red indicated snow, and green indicated rain and blue indicated clear weather for people in Istanbul.
One of the symbols of the campus is the statue of Atatürk that has an important place in the history of Istanbul and that has been placed in the garden of the main campus by the young people. The story of the Monument of Atatürk and Youth constitutes one of the best examples of the solidarity of the students.
The Istanbul University is at the same time the core of other universities in Turkey and has constituted the substructure of them with its faculty members as well as the students it raised.
Prof. Dr. Nuran Yıldırım: Today, you see the Istanbul University wherever you look and whichever discipline you get into. It is not possible to write the history of anything without touching the history of the Istanbul University.
Prof. Dr. Fahameddin Başar: If we have more than a hundred and fifty universities in our country today, the source of these universities is the Istanbul University. The faculty members and students trained there began working for these universities afterwards.
Prof. Dr. Mahmut Ak:. The most important element of the Istanbul University is that it is an institution representing the educational system tradition in Turkey.
Prof. Dr. Semavi Eyice: It is the only and the oldest university of Turkey that is established in accordance with the Western system.
Prof. Dr. Ali Arslan: The Istanbul University is the centre of free ideas, free thought and free conscience in Turkey. This is an open and unique quality that could never be compared to another institution.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özdoğan: It has been a pioneer in every field in Turkey. The Istanbul University has a leadership, a pioneering, an opening to the world, and an acceptance in the world, not only in Archaeology, but also in all academic disciplines that we see in a positive condition in Turkey.
Prof. Dr. Yakut Özden Irmak: I do not think that we actually mention the importance of the Istanbul University very often. Considering that it was first established in 1453, it has a very old, long-established past… We should always firstly keep in mind that it is such a long-established institution and we should always remember its foundations.
Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun: With the University Reform, it was aimed at a university that produces knowledge and ideas. The Istanbul University has achieved this aim with its staff and students.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Saray: In the process of opening to knowledge, science and the world and modernization starting from the pre-Republic era and continuing in the Republic era, my university, my Istanbul University has been the greatest academic institution enlightening the Turkish Nation both in the madrasah period and in its present form in the 20th century since 1900 to date in spite of all disruptions.
The history of the Istanbul University, one of the longest established brands of Turkey, dating back to 1453, is also the history of the academic education and development in Turkey.