THE TEACHING OF MATHEMATICAL AND NATURAL SCIENCES IN THE DARÜLFÜNUN AND ISTANBUL UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF SCIENCE BETWEEN 1900 - 1946
In Ottoman Turkey, the teaching of mathematical and natural sciences outside the medreses started in the modern engineering and medical schools founded beginning from the late eighteenth century. An attempt to teach these sciences apart from these institutions emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century with the idea of establishing the Darülfünun (University). In the first attempt dated 1863, conference-lectures on modern sciences were given. Although it may be thought that these courses were the very foundation of the Istanbul University Faculty of Science, in fact Darülfünun could not last for long. The conference-lectures which continued until 1865 attracted great interest, but since Darülfünun was not planned as an activity of higher education, it could not achieve real success.
Although the second attempt for establishing the Darülfünun (Darülfü-nun-ı Osmani, 1870) started with a different and more mature understanding, it also failed due to several difficulties. In 1874, Darülfünun-ı Sultani was established and mathematical and natural science courses started in Turuk u Maabir Mektebi (School of Civil Engineering) within this institution. These science lectures constituted the basis for engineering education.
In the first three attempts, lectures and courses on mathematical and natural sciences were never continuous. They gained continuity in 1900 in the Ulum-l Riyaziye ve Tabiiye Şubesi (Department of Mathematical and Natural Sciences) that was established within the Darülfünun-ı Şahane (Imperial University) in spite of the unfavourable political conditions and limited facilities of the time.
After the declaration of the Second Constitution (1908), some measures were taken to improve the level of education in the Ulum-ı Riyaziye ve Tabiiye Şubesi. But since the graduates of this faculty did not have good job opportunities, interest taken in the "Fünun Fakültesi" (Faculty of Sciences) was comparatively less than the other faculties.
During the First World War (1914-1918), some scholars were recruited from Germany to teach at the Faculty of Science. The Institute of Chemistry in Yerebatan and the Institute of Geology in Vefa were established. The endeavours of the German scholars to acquire the necessary materials for these institutes Jwere really noteworthy. When the war ended, these scholars returned to their own countries before their work was completed. After they left, the lessons were given by their Turkish colleagues.
In 1919, with the Darülfünun-i Osmani Nizamnamesi (Regulations of the Ottoman University), Darülfünun acquired a new scientific and administrative organization. Although the faculty again faced various problems, a new curriculum was prepared during the Independence War.
In the early years of the Turkish Republic, scientific and administrative autonomy and legal personage were given to the Darülfünun. PCN Class (Physics, Chemistry, Natural Sciences) was established within the faculty. "Muallimlik İhtisas Ruuslan" (Teaching Certificates) were given for the training of teachers for secondary schools as well as certificates for chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering. The Faculty of Science also contributed to the education of engineering between 1923-1933.
In 1926, scholars were recruited from France to the Faculty of Science to improve education. Education continued with the support and contribution of these scholars and their Turkish colleagues until the University Reformation in 1933.
In 1933, Darülfünun was abolished during the University Reformation. Mass dismissal took place in the Faculty of Science as well as in other faculties of the Istanbul University. All Turkish instructors, except three, in the Faculty of Science were dismissed. It is hard to guess the criteria used for the dismissal. When the training and education of the dismissed are compared to the formation of those who remained, it gets even harder to understand this criteria. Scholars like Ligor Bey, Cevat Mazhar and Ömer Şevket, who were educated in Europe and had original scientific publications, were among the dismissed.
After this dismissal, the staff was strengthened by German instructors mostly of Jewish origin who fled from Hitler's regime and young Turkish scholars who returned to Turkey after completing their education in Europe. Thus, research and education continued with the contribution and under the directorships of these German scholars.
Alter the autonomy given to the university in 1946, the Faculty of Science was reorganised. The certificate system valid up to that time was abandoned for the branch and course systems.
During this period, which is referred as the "Golden Age" of the Faculty of Science (1933-1946), 41 Ph.D degrees were given (10 in mathematics, 2 in astronomy, 2 in physics and 8 in chemistry, 6 in zoology, 8 in botany,. 5 in geology). A better evaluation of its scientific activity can be made through a more detailed examination of the histories of the disciplines.
Zeynep Hanım Konağı, where the Faculty of Science had been working since the Second Constitution (1908), was burned down in 1942. This event led to an interruption in the education and research activities. All equipment and instruments were destroyed by the fire, and the faculty had to continue its activities in a disorganized manner in different buildings.
As a conclusion, in the three Darülfünuns established in the second half of the nineteenth century, mathematical and natural sciences were taught in different faculties. But the foundation stone of today's Istanbul University Faculty of Science was the "Ulum-ı Riyaziye ve Tabiiye Şubesi" established in 1900 within the Darülfünun-ı Şahane (Imperial University). In the course of time, its name was changed several times, some courses were added or dropped, foreign instructors were brought, and new orders were applied until the University Reformation in 1933. After this year, the Faculty of Science continued its activities as the first and only Faculty of Science in Turkey for several years, laying down the foundation for later faculties of science. It was also the first institution to initiate the research tradition in natural sciences.