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The Establishment of the Engineering Schools (Mühendishanes) in the Ottoman Empire

Mustafa Kaçar

The Ottomans' interest in European science and technology which developed in the 18 th century was highly influential in the foundation of new scientific and educational institutions. In 1735, the Ulu feli Humbaracı Ocağı (Corps of Bombardiers) was created under the supervision of Comte de Bonneval. In addition to drills, the bombardiers received theoretical instruction in geometry, trigonometry, ballistics, and technical drawing in the course of their training. The establishment of this corps was a first step in the creation of a new military organisation in the Ottoman army.

The second attempt started in 1770 when Baron François de Tott was charged by the Ottomans with several military and technical projects. A class of geometry called Hendesehane or Ecole de Théorie et de Mathématiques was established under his supervision and opened on April 29, 1775 . The Hendesehane was originally a school where different branches of mathematics were taught to students coming from various military corps(es) such as artillery, fortification and the Ottoman navy. It was diffe rent from the above-mentioned corps of bombardiers where mathematics was taught as a part of the bombardier training. Baron de Tott, t he French Kermovan and Campbell Mustafa of Scottish origin lectured mathematics in the Hendesehane for about four months until September 1775.

In 1776, with a new regulation issued by Grand Admiral Gazi Hasan Pasha, Hendesehane was re-organized in line with the classical Ottoman bureaucratic and financial structure. After Baron de Tott left İstanbul, Cezayirli Seyyid Hasan Hoca, the Second Captain of the imperial fleet, was appointed professor to the school. Thus, established under the administration of European specialists, Hendesehane continued to give instruction in mathematics and fortification through the contributions of native teachers. It was originally established in the storage rooms of the Imperial Maritime Arsenal and was run by a professor from the ulema class who had sound knowledge in geometry. Foreign specialists could also teach in this institution. The teaching staff included a professor (hodja), an assistant professor (halife) and a keeper of instruments, and about ten students (sakird).

From 1781 on Hendesehane was also called Mühendishane ( School of Engineering ) . During Halil Hamid Pasha's term of office (Grand vizier between 1782-1785), the Ottomans were on good terms with France . Upon the request of the Ottoman State , Lafitte-Clavé and Monnier, French military experts, were sent to Istanbul and put in charge of the reformation projects in the Ottoman army. They were also asked to strengthen the fortifications at the Empire's borders and to organise the training in the Maritime Arsenal, and the School of Engineering as well. Thus they started to train officers in modern military arts and sciences (artillery, navigation and fortification etc.) together with teachers from the Ottoman ulema class. After 1788 when the Frenchmen left the Empire, the native madrasa teachers undertook the instruction in the imperial schools of engineering where the classical Ottoman science books were used alongside with European books until the end of the 18 th century.

With the reign of Sultan Selim III (1789-1808) started a military reform movement called the Nizam-ı Cedid (New Order). Within the framework of this reform, new regulations were prepared for the imperial schools of engineering. Accordingly, Mühendishane-i Cedid (New Mühendishane) was established in 1793 to train military units (i.e. corps of canoniers, bombardiers and miners) that required mathematical and technical knowledge. The Ottoman engineer-teachers who had been the students of French engineers such as Lafitte-Clavé and Monnier and taught fortification in the Arsenal in 1784 lectured in this new Mühendishane. The teaching staff included a professor (hodja) and four assistant professors (halifes) who instructed the bombardiers and miners in geometry, trigonometry, measuring the altitude and land surveying.

Between 1801-1802, about one hundred students selected from the corps of bombardiers, sappers, miners and architects were recruited in the Mühendishane to be trained as engineers.The teaching staff included a professor and five assistant professors. With a regulation issued in 1806 carrying the imprints of the European educational system, the school was organised as to have four classes and four teachers. This regulation also started the practice of passing from one grade to another which was a novelty in Ottoman educational life.

The evolution of the Mühendishanes established at the end of the 19th century was not similar to the development of European military and civil engineering schools. Compared to those of the European schools, the number of the graduates of Mühendishanes was relatively low, due to the fact that students of this institution were state officials (soldiers) paid by the.government.

The educational system in the Ottoman classical institution "madrasa" and the newly introduced European system were reconciled within the framework of the Otoman traditional bureucracy. Thus, with the establishment of the mühendishanes, an Ottoman-European synthesis started to gain ground in Ottoman educational life.

as a result of the research conducted so far, it's clear that modern science and technology was introduced to the Ottoman State upon the demand and through the efforts of Ottoman scholars and administrators. Experts recruited from Europe contributed mainly to the teaching of new techniques.


Son güncelleme: 01.11.2016

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