Celâl Saraç and history of science
- A quest inspired by Gaston Bachelard -
Born to a renown family of Urfa in southeastern Turkey, Celâl Saraç (1906-1998) studied physics and mathematics at the Faculty of Sciences of Dijon University. Following his return, in 1933 he was nominated "Dozent" (associate professor) to Prof. Marcel Fouché in the Department of Physics of Istanbul University. A decade later he moved to Ankara University and was appointed professor and head of the Physics Department of the newly founded Faculty of Science. During his tenure in both universities, Celâl Saraç undertook the translation of numerous physics textbooks from French. These greatly aided studies in physics in post-war Turkey. From 1962 on he served as the director of the Physics Department of Ege University's Faculty of Science in Izmir, until his retirement in 1973. He also held the chair of the rector of Ege University between 1963-65.
During his academic life and especially after his retirement, Celâl Saraç was keenly interested in researching history of science. Saraç's interest seems to have been kindled during his undergraduate studies in France, where he attended courses given by Prof. Gaston Bachelard who taught history and philosophy of science at the Dijon University in the early 1930s. C.Saraç's first publications in the history of science were short articles on European physics in the 17th-19th centuries. These were published in Istanbul in 1940-41 in the popular Turkish journal Fen ve Teknik (Science ad Technique). He was also interested in the history of exact sciences in the medieval Islamic world. Thus, with his articles and communiques compiled or translated from various sources, he endeavoured to introduce history of physics to Turkish readership. He was also a pioneer in introducing history of science into the curriculum of mathematical sciences in his universities. Unfortunately, his efforts were not pursued, and at present history of science is being taught exclusively to students of social sciences in Turkey. The two books he published İyonya Pozitif Bilimi (Positive Sciences in Ionia, 1971, 2003) and Bilim Tarihi (History of Science, 1983) are expanded versions of his history of science courses. Prof. Celâl Saraç's later studies focused on the works of the Turkish historian of science and mathematician Salih Zeki (1864-1921), acclaimed for his research on medieval Islamic mathematicians and astronomers.
Key words: Celâl Saraç, history of science, physics textbooks, Istanbul University, Ankara University, Ege University, Gaston Bachelard; Anahtar kelimeler: Celâl Saraç, bilim tarihi, fizik kitapları, İstanbul Universitesi, Ankara Üniversitesi, Ege Üniversitesi, Gaston Bachelard.