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An early Turkish journal on mathematical sciences:
Mebahis-i İlmiye (1867-69)

Feza Günergun

Turkish periodicals aiming to introduce Euopean technical and scientific knowledge to the Ottomans, first saw the press in mid-nineteenth century. The Mebahis-i İlmiye (Scientific Themes), one of the earliest Turkish journals on mathematical sciences was published by the 'Cemiyet-i Tedrisiye-i İslamiye' (Society for the Education of Muslims), a philanthropic society created by Turkish professors, and civilian and military intellectuals, to start a basics (reading writing, arithmetics) program for young muslim artisans in Istanbul.

The journal was published thanks to the perseverance and editorial work of a young Turkish mathematician, Vidinli Hüseyin Tevfik (Paşa, 1832-1901), professor of mathematics and mechanics at the Imperial Military School. Vidinli Tevfik also provided the journal with several articles on mathematics, mechanics and crafts. Another young professor of the Imperial Military School, Ahmed Muhtar (Paşa, 1839-1919) had his work on the construction of sundails serialized in the journal. The monthly periodical became increasingly popular owing to the publication of various mathematical problems, and inviting solutions from its readers. On the other hand, the requirement of sound mathematical knowledge to comprehend articles seems to have limited the readership. Since its editor and some of its authors were from the Imperial Military School, the journal was circulated within the school and constituted complementary material to textbooks. Moreover, through criticism of other papers or answering questions appearing in general journals, Mebahis-i İlmiye possibly attracted individuals.

Part of the problems and some of the articles were borrowed from the Nouvelles Annales de Mathématiques issued for the candidates aspiring to attend the École Polytechnique and École Normale in Paris. In all likelihood, Hüseyin Tevfik took the French journal as a model and drew information from its various volumes. It is probable that a collection of the journal was extant in the library of the Imperial Military School. Interestingly, the Turkish translation of a 20-page text selected from O.Byrne's (1810-1880) Dual Arithmetic. A New Art is included in the journal. While excerpts from Byrne's book indicates Hüseyin Tevfik's ambition to disseminate new mathematical techniques, articles on applied mathematics (i.e. the geometrical division of land lots) or those stressing the importance of scientific knowledge in the training of craftsmen indicates that the journal's target was not merely students of the Military School.

Hüseyin Tevfik's nomination to senior posts, and the opening of the school for muslim orphans by the society (Cemiyet-i Tedrisiye-yi Islamiye) may have hindered the publication of the journal which saw only 20 issues. Efforts of the society's members were shifted to the teaching program instead. Hüseyin Tevfik Paşa's own studies culminated in his textbook Linear Algebra (1882). Small in format but regularly published and sold locally in a bindery shop, Mebahis-i ilmiye, contributed to expanding interest in mathematics during its brief term of publication.

Key words: Mebahis-i İlmiye, Vidinli Hüseyin Tevfik Paşa, Gazi Ahmed Muhtar Paşa, Yusuf Ziya Paşa, Cemiyet-i Tedrisiye-i İslamiye, history of mathematics, Turkish periodicals, mathematics journals, Oliver Byrne, Nouvelles Annales de Mathématiques, dual arithmetic, linear algebra; Anahtar kelimeler: Mebahis-i İlmiye, Vidinli Hüseyin Tevfik Paşa, Gazi Ahmed Muhtar Paşa, Yusuf Ziya Paşa, Cemiyet-i Tedrisiye-i İslamiye, matematik tarihi, fenn-i basite, fenn-i müsenna, fenn-i makine, Türkçe süreli yayınlar, matematik dergileri, Oliver Byrne, Nouvelles Annales de Mathématiques, dual aritmetik, lineer cebir.


Son güncelleme: 01.11.2016

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