Science historian (B. October 24, 1924, Bitlis - D. 30 Jul 2018, İstanbul). He was trained by German Orientalist Hellmut Ritter (1892-1971), a pioneer of Orientalism and Islamic studies in Istanbul University, Faculty of Literature, Institute of Orientalism between the years 1943-1951. When his teacher told him that the basics of all sciences are grounded in Islamic sciences; he started to work on this field. He completed his doctoral studies in 1954 at Arabic Language and Literature Department with his thesis named “Sources of Buhari”. In this thesis, he claimed that the Hadith compiled by Buhari (810-870), who has a significant spot in Islamic culture as a Hadith source, did not rely on verbal sources as claimed; but also written sources that go back to 7th century. This thesis is still being argued in Orientalist circles. He became an associate professor at Islamic Research Institute in 1954. He met Zeki Velidi Togan in here. He became a professor at Frankfurt University in 1966.
His path with Islamic scholars intersected in 1942 when he started to receive Arabic Philology Training at Istanbul University in 1942. He was interested in mathematics. His meeting with famous Orientalist Prof. Dr. Helmut Ritter has paved the way for Sezgin’s scientific career. Ritter has said that mathematicians such as Harizimî, Ebu’l-Vefa Buzcanî, İbn Heysem, Birunî were at the same level and sometimes even better than their European counterparts, and suggested Sezgin to learn Arabic. He learned Arabic by himself in six months during the Second World War period. Ritter said about him: “I have not seen anyone else to learn that quickly in my whole life”. Sezgin also began to read works written in Assyrian, Persian, Latin and Hebrew in their original languages. When he became a lecturer at Istanbul University, Department of Arabic Literature, he decided to write about the history of Islamic sciences. But, he was sacked from university with 147 other professors after May 27, 1960 military coup.
As a result of this, he received two invitations from United States of America (USA) and one invitation from Germany. When he went to Frankfurt in 1961, he found an international commission that tries to write “History of Islamic Sciences”. The book was designed as twelve volumes and when the first volume was published in 1967, the commission has dissolved itself. Sezgin continued with his studies in Germany and was awarded with high merit medal of Germans for a couple of times. Although he was in his eighties, he was not retired and accepted as the most famous Arabic and Islamic expert of the world. He browsed the famous libraries in the Islamic world and revealed numerous unknown hand-written manuscripts. He used the resources he compiled, and write his famous work “Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums” (GAS, 1967-2000) of thirteen volumes.
The main point of Sezgin’s scientific studies has been the history of natural sciences around Arabic-Islamic cultural circles. He did his habilitation (highest academic examination in European and Asian countries) on this area in 1965. He began with his study on Arab-Islam literature history which developed between 7th-14th centuries in Istanbul (Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums) and continued with it in Germany; and he published the first volume of his reference work for Orientalist (related with Eastern languages, history and literature knowledge) studies in 1967, and the thirteenth (final) volume in 2000. “Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums”, is about all main and subsidiary sciences in the first period of Islam, such as religious and historical literature, geography and mapping.
Prof. Sezgin is the first person awarded by Saudi Arabia King Faisal Foundation’s Islamic Sciences prize in 1978. With this support and several other donations; Sezgin has established Arab-Islam Sciences History Institute at J.W. Goethe University in 1982 and the museum of this institute in 1983, of which he became the director. The museum established under the Institute exhibits the samples of scientific tools Sezgin made to be produced according to the written sources of Muslim scholars. The catalogue named “Wissenschaft und Technik im Islam”, which was prepared to introduce the objects in the museum and to indicate the scientific development in Islamic cultural circles was published in 2003. This catalogue was also published in French; and he made the preparations to publis it in Arabic, English and Turkish.
Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin has made the similar ones of the scientific tools he prepared for Arab-Islam Sciences Institute and pioneered the creation of “Istanbul Islam, Science and Technology Museum” which was opened by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 25, 2008. In this museum and in the museum within Goethe Institute; he has reproduced the tools developed by Muslim scholars throughout the ages and exhibited those. A replica of the map prepared in 8th century, during the reign of Caliph Me’mun is one of these. Relying on the studies he conducted in the institute at Goethe University; Prof. Fuat Sezgin has also revealed that the modern marine science, which was considered as a Portuguese invention, was also established by Muslims. He proved that in 15th century Muslims could measure the distances at the sea, that they could determine their location within the ocean by using a map with latitudes and longitudes, that they could make the parallel measures of north and east, north and south and to the equator; and that the Italians and Portuguese have learned about compass and map in marine technology from Muslims. Sezgin has worked for seven years in order to re-make the two watches done by Muslim scientist Takiyeddin in 1555.
Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin has received the International King Faisal Prize, which is considered as the Nobel Prize of Islamic world (1979), and Outstanding Service Award from Writers Union of Turkey (1999). His works were awarded at the highest level in Germany; and he was awarded with Federal Service Medal (1982) and Outstanding Service Grand Medal (2001) in Germany. German Prime Minister Schröder said: “You have provided us the greatest support to struggle against the group that separates both cultural worlds from another!”. Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin is a member of Turkish Academy of Sciences. He is married to his colleague Dr. Ursula Sezgin and they are living in Frankfurt. Their daughter Hilal Sezgin is a journalist and writer living in Germany.
İslâm Bilimleri Tarihi (10 vol, German), İslâm Bilimleri Bibliyografyası (5 vol, German), İslâm Kültür Dünyasının Bilimler Tarihindeki Yeri (2004), İslâm'da Bilim ve Teknik (Trans. Abdurrahman Ali, Ankara, 2007).
REFERENCE: Hakan Güven / Biz Neymişiz Dedirten Sergi (Aksiyon, 18 Ekim 2004), Taha Akyol / Avrupa’da İslâm Tartışması (Milliyet, 10.1.2005), Doğu’dan Yükselen Işığı Dünyaya Tanıtan Adam - Ufkunu Ritter Açtı (Radikal, 27 Mart 2005), Dünya Bilim Tarihi Yeniden Yazılmalı (Yeni Şafak, 26.9.2005), Fuat Sezgin İslâm Bilimini Yeniden Yaratıyor (Hürriyet Bilim, 29 Aralık 2005), Orhan Yıdırım / Avrupa, Müslümanların Bilime Katkısını Kabullenemedi” (Zaman, 6 Ekim 2010), İhsan Işık / Resimli ve Metin Örnekli Türkiye Edebiyatçılar ve Kültür Adamları Ansiklopedisi (2006) - Ünlü Bilim Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 2, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013), Tarihçi Fuat Sezgin toprağa verildi (haberturk.com, 01.07.2018), Ünlü tarihçi Fuat Sezgin hayatını kaybetti! - Fuat Sezgin kimdir? (hürriyet.com.tr, 30.06.2018), Hocaların hocasına veda (hürriyet.com.tr, 01.07.2018), Ünlü tarihçi Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin son yolculuğuna uğurlandı (DHA - hürriyet.com.tr, 01.07.2018).