Yahya Naci Efendi and his "Risale-i Hikmet-i Tabiiyye" (1809), a treatise on the motion of projectiles
The present article aims the study of "Risâle-i Hikmet-i Tabîiyye," a treatise written by Yahya Naci Efendi (d. 1824), professor at the Imperial School of Military Engineering (Mühendishane-i Berri-i Hümayun), a school which played an important role in the introduction of modern sciences to the Ottoman State. The manuscript, which was written in Istanbul in 1809 (1224 H.), consists of 44 leaves. Yahya Naci Efendi taught French at the Sublime Porte (Bâb-ı Alî), and served as dragoman at the Imperial Council (Divan-ı Hümayun). He also lectured sciences and French at the Mühendishane. In the preface of his book, he states that he studied physics and mathematics in Europe and prepared his book for the students of the Mühendishane by using European sources.
The purpose was to explain the operational principles of artillery such as howitzer and gun. The manuscript includes an introduction and sixteen headings. Each heading gives the physical and chemical principles needed to understand the functioning of the firearms. First, the subjects of dynamics and kinematics (projectile motion 1-2 dimensions, the motion of free falling bodies, circular motion, weight, attraction force and impulse) are analysed. Then, the chemical composition of the gunpowder, its combustion in the firearms are explained. The air, the crucial component of the combustion is studied under several headings. The physical and chemical properties of water and its constituents are studied as well.
When the manuscript is compared with the end-eighteenth century European textbooks, we see that it is not a simple translation of a single book. It is likely that the writer has consulted several sources. Moreover, the title and the sequence of the headings are dissimilar to those displayed in standard textbooks on physics or chemistry. This dissimilarity comes from the author's personal style and from his aim which was to explain how firearms function and to expose the underlying principles.
Yahya Naci Efendi endeavoured to translate the European physical and chemical terms into Ottoman language. He was one of the pioneers who contributed to the establishment of scientific terminology in Turkey.