Educator, politician, philosopher (B. 1859, Lüleburgaz / Kırklareli – D. August 1914, Yeşilköy / Istanbul). His father is Ali Efendi, a merchant. After his primary and secondary education in Lüleburgaz he came to Istanbul and completed the High School and Higher Education Departments at the School of Political Sciences (Mekteb-i Mülkiye). After teaching for a certain period, he became director of education in Yanya (1882), Thessaloniki (1884) and Aleppo and a high school teacher. In 1891 he became director of education in Aydın. During his duty in Aydın, he escaped to Switzerland with two friends because of political reasons. However, after some months he was extradited by Switzerland Government to Istanbul (1893). They were arrested because of allegedly stealing money from the treasury of directorate and escaping. After two poems his friend Tevfik Nevzat with whom he escaped to Europe wrote to Sultan Abdul Hamid II about them being forgiven he was allowed to return to the homeland. Emrullah Efendi was not penalized, but assigned to membership of education parliament (1900).
Emrullah Efendi wrote articles in İkdam newspaper between the years 1896-1900. He published his encyclopedic articles he was preparing for “Muhitil-Maârif” (Encyclopedia of Education) in İkdam. However, he used the pen name “Ulûm-ı Lisaniyye Muharriri” for these writings. He attached importance to making Turkish of philosophical concepts in order to understand the West. He tried to express the Western philosophy using the concepts of Islamic philosophy. He could only publish the first two volumes of “Muhitil- Maarif” which was the first encyclopedia of the country (1902).
Emrullah Efendi who was appointed member of education parliament in 1900 was appointed the first Director of Konya Law School in 1906. After the declaration of the second constitutional period (1908) he was assigned to directorate of Galatasaray High School, however he stayed there only for ten days. Later, he was appointed as the Department Head of Educational Parliament. He was one of the founders and administrators of Turkish Association which was the beginning of organization of Pan Turkism Movement. On 16th December 1908, he entered the Ottoman Parliament as a Parliamentarian from Kırkkilise.
After the declaration of the constitutional period, the minister of education was changed seven times within ten months but none of them could fulfill their duty. On the 12th of January 1910 Emrullah Efendi was appointed Minister of Education. The same year he started to give lectures in Istanbul University, Literature Branch. His works during his ministry were often criticized and there were often rumors of resignation about him. In the end he resigned on the 21st of February 1911 but was again assigned to the same position in December. He stayed in this position until his resignation of the cabinet on the 21st of July 1912. He was arrested by the Martial Law in November and questioned because of incidents at university. In 1913 he undertook teaching of methodology and education at university where he was giving lectures of philosophy. He wrote the first volume of the encyclopedia he was working on but could not complete it during his life. The published first volume was edited and republished in 1914 under the title “Yeni Muhitil Maarif”. He passed away on the 14th of August 1914 at his home in Yeşilköy and inhumed into the garden of his mosque and his funeral took place in Fatih Mosque.
Emrullah Efendi, who was assigned to the Ministry of National Education twice during the second constitutional period, was a prominent figure of near past of Turkish education. He was also active within the Party of Union and Progress. He was known with his system of thought called “Tûba Ağacı Nazariyesi” (T.N.“Tûba Tree Theory”). in the history of education. This system of thought was one of the important debate topics of political and cultural life after the death of Emrullah Efendi. He said for purpose of fun “Without these schools I would have administrated the national education very well.” which could not be forgotten.
According to Emrullah Efendi one of the most important tasks of the state is to protect the science. Science starts from above. First it is necessary to raise an elite cadre. They should train primary and secondary school teachers, and they should raise the children. Since the “tuba” tree in heaven has its roots above, this idea was called “Tûba Ağacı Nazariyesi”. It also influenced the ideologue of the Party of Union and Progress Ziya Gökalp and became an important principle of the party. One of the people who did not agree with the opinions of Emrullah Efendi was another important figure of Turkish education history, Mustafa Satı Bey, Director of Darülmuallim (Training School) at that time. According to Satı Bey top-down models such as tuba tree are the reason why the Ottoman Empire could not establish a reliable education system. In order to strengthen the higher education one has to prepare well not only the teaching cadre but also students.
One of the big discussions during the ministry of Emrullah Efendi was his discussion with Tevfik Fikret who was the Director of Mekteb-i Sultani (Galatasaray High School) at that time. By the beginning of 1910 Emrullah Efendi declared a circular letter and asked to cut back on salaries of teachers who did not come to courses on purpose. Tevfik Fikret did not apply this letter in Galatasaray High School and resigned. Salih Zeki Bey was appointed replacing him. It created a large reaction that the assignation letter included the expression “a scholar replaced a poet”. Some teachers and students left the school. The issue was discussed in the Party of Union and Progress and Ottoman Parliament. It was also the central topic in the agenda of the press. Emrullah Efendi insisted on not privileging Galatasaray High School which was connected to the ministry about applying the letters of the ministry. Tevfik Fikret upon this left the school.
Emrullah Efendi’s articles which were mostly about education were published in newspapers such as Mirat-ı Maarif, Mülkiy, Sırat-ı Müstakim, Yeni Muhitü’l-Maarif, Ümmet and Tanin.
Muhîtü’l-Maârif (encyclopedia, 1st volume, 1902), Yeni Muhîtü’l-Maârif (extended 2nd ed. 1914), Osmanlı İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyetinin Bin Üçyüz Yirmi Yedi Senesi Dördüncü Kongresinde Tanzim Olunan Siyasî Programa Dair İzahnâme (1914).