Turkish historian Fuat Sezgin dies at age 95

I wrote a piece on Fuat Sezgin four years ago after discovering the museum in Istanbul he was responsible for establishing. If you want to check it out you’ll find the introduction and link at the end of this brief obituary I’m quoting from Hürriyet Daily News.

Fuat Sezgin 2The writer notes that Professor Sezgin “continued his studies at Germany’s Frankfurt University in 1960 following a military coup in Turkey.” Those were the good old days of democracy in Turkey when left wing academics were imprisoned, tortured and disappeared. Fortunately, the learned professor managed to get away – unlike the Prime Minister of the day, who was executed by the soldiers along with two of his ministers. Professor Sezgin lived to see his reputation restored, and survived to a ripe old age.


Turkish historian Fuat Sezgin died on June 30 at the age of 95. Macit Çetinkaya, chair of the board of Research Foundation for the History of Science in Islam, told Anadolu Agency that Sezgin died in the hospital where he was treated for an unspecified illness.

“I am very saddened by the death of such a valued scientist, regardless of his age. He was a very distinguished scientist,” Çetinkaya said “He donated a priceless library and museum to Turkey,” he added.

Fuat SezginPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also extended his condolences over the demise of the historian.

“I wish Allah’s mercy upon the great scholar Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin, who led the reawakening of our civilization and history with the work he has done in the field of Islamic science history, and offer my condolences to the nation, his relatives and the world of science,” Erdoğan said on Twitter.

Sezgin was born in eastern Bitlis province in 1924. He studied at Istanbul University’s Faculty of Letters, where he also earned his PhD in Arabic language and literature. He continued his studies at Germany’s Frankfurt University in 1960 following a military coup in Turkey.

He devoted a considerable amount of time to studying and listing scientific contributions made by Muslim/Arabic scholars throughout history. He wrote numerous books and articles.

Sezgin established the Research Foundation for the History of Science in Islam in 2010 to support activities of the Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam.

In 2013, he also founded the History of Science in Islam Institute at Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University in Istanbul.

It gives you some idea of the wealth of the Ottoman sultans that the stables of the old Topkapı Palace have been converted into a moderately large museum; not actually dedicated to equestrian pursuits, but housing Istanbul’s Museum of Science and Technology in Islam.

Well, you might think it’s a long name for a museum that won’t contain very much – but you’d be wrong. The MSTI (or in Turkish, İBTTM) features displays and models in fifteen scientific fields from a thousand years of high Islamic culture, beginning in the 7th century and ending at the start of the 17th when Western Europe took over as the centre of scientific research and discovery. Somewhat unusually for a museum in this country, the displays are fully and clearly explained by text in four languages, German, French and English as well as Turkish.

The linguistic competence, and in fact the foundation of the museum itself, are attributable to Professor Fuat Sezgin, professor emeritus at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Professor Sezgin taught at Istanbul University until 1960 when he, along with many other intellectuals, was removed from office after the military coup in May of that year. Escaping the fate of the unfortunate prime minister at the time, Prof. Sezgin made his way to Germany where he embarked on a successful academic career specialising in the history of Arab-Islamic science, helping to found a museum in Frankfurt with replicas of historical scientific instruments, tools and maps.




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