Historian of science (B. May 2nd, 1913, Istanbul – D. October 15th, 1993, Ankara). He was the third child of Abdurrahman Bey and Suat Hanım. Because his father worked in Iran, he lived in Iran during a part of his childhood. He completed his primary education in Istanbul, and secondary education in Ankara. He completed Ankara Erkek High School in 1933. The President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was among the committee for high school graduation exam, wanted Aydın Sayın to be looked after upon the outstanding performance that he showed. Upon this, the Minister of Education Reşit Galip Bey motivated him to be interested in the history of science. The same year he graduated from the high school, he won the exam that the Ministry of Education held for sending students abroad and he was sent to the United States of America in order to study history of science at Harvard University. Prof. Dr. George Sarton had so much impact on his training. In 1942, he received his doctorate degree with a thesis entitled “the Scientific Institutions in the Islamic World” from Harvard University under the supervision of George Sarton. This doctorate is known for being the first doctorate degree in the world that was given in the field of science history.
When Aydın Sayılı returned to Turkey in 1943, he started working at Ankara University Faculty of Languages, History and Geography, the Department of Philosophy. History courses were added to the curriculum of the department when he started working there. In 1946, he was appointed to the chair of philosophy as an Associate Professor of History of Science and in 1952 he became the Professor of History of Science. With the scholarships that he received from the US government and Fords Foundation in the years of 1952-53 and 1956-57, he stayed in the US for a period of 10-11 months and did researches. He rejected the offers that he received from various American universities in order to fulfill his responsibilities to Ankara. In 1958, he received the title Distinguished Professor. He published his work named “the Observatory in the Islam and its Place in the General History of the Observatory”, which was his masterpiece, in 1960. In 1974 he was elected as the Head of Department of Philosophy of the faculty; he carried out this duty until he retired in 1983.
During the long years that Sayılı was working at Ankara University, he trained only three doctorate students. Sevim Tekeli did her doctorate in the history of astronomy, Esin Kâhya in the fields of history of natural sciences and history of medicine, and Melek Dosay in the field of history of mathematics. In addition to his duty at the University, Saygılı, who was elected as a full member of the Turkish Historical Society in 1947 and carried out works in this institution, served there as the Head of Medieval Turkish History Department for years. He became a full member of the International Academy of History of Science in 1961 and served as the vice president of this institution as of 1962, for three years.
Prof. Sayılı, the scientist who established the histography of science in Turkey, presented the contributions of the Turks, the Islam World, the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians and other various civilizations to the science and to the formation of the Western civilization. During his scientific studies, he was interested in Turkish and worked on it. Aydın Sayılı found new Turkish translations for the foreign words, which could not be translated before, and for the terms that could cause confusion of meaning, and explained them. In his article bearing the same name with the publication of “Bilim, Kültür ve Öğretim Dili Olarak Türkçe (T.N.Turkish as a Language of Science and Instruction)”, where he served as the editor, Sayılı explained the development of Turkish language and lexicalized new synonymous, homonymous Turkish words in this study, which was related to different fields of information such as mathematics, physics and philosophy.
With his work that was associated with the observatories in the Islamic World, Sayılı introduced the main observatories, the main astronomers that served at these institutions, the tools that were used and the astronomical studies that were carried out during that period. He proved that the observatory named el-Mukasem, which was accepted to be located in Cairo, actually did not exist. He found the location of Kasiyun Observatory in Damascus. He revealed that the observatory was an institution that came into existence in the Islamic world due to the necessity of astronomy to fulfill the religious practices in Islam and that the first observatories in the Western world were constituted by taking the observatories in the Islamic world as examples.
Sayılı introduced the first seven hospitals of the Islamic world to the science world with his study entitled “İslam Dünyasında Hastaneler” (T.N. the Hospitals in Islamic World). He wrote his work named “Hayatta En Hakiki Mürşit İlimdir” (T.N. the Truest Guide in Life is Science) by giving examples from the history to the matters such as science, scientific method and differences between science and technology. In many of his works he addressed the scientific relationships between the West and the Ottoman and discussed the reasons of retrogression of science in the Islamic worlds. In his work named “Mısır ve Mezopotamyalılarda Matematik, Astronomi, Matematik” (T.N. Mathematics, Astronomy, Mathematics in Egypt and Mesopotamia), he compared the mentioned civilizations’ knowledge on these topics with the knowledge in Classical Greece. In his last studies he focused on the importance and the role of scientific studies of Turks in the Islamic world. He revealed that the scientist named Abu Rayhan al-Biruni was a Turk. He published a book about the studies of Copernicus. He examined studies of Aristotle and al-Qarafi on the rainbow comparatively. He showed the parallelism between the explanations of Ibn Sina and Newton on the motion. He examined the effects of Farabi’s views on the space on the Western science.
Aydın Sayılı also took a strong interest in history and literature. He published the poem named “Leylek ve Bülbül” of Gülşehri for the first time in Turkish, which was written in the 14th century and which contained information on madrasahs and on the natural sciences; this can be given as an example of his works in this field. Besides, he wrote an article about the poems, which were about Istanbul Observatory, of el-Mansuri that lived in the 16th century. It was accepted that no scientific study was performed at Istanbul Observatory, which had been built in the period of the Ottoman Sultan Murat III and had been demolished in the same sultan’s period. However, in this article Sayılı revealed the information that there were sixteen observers living at Istanbul Conservatory and also there was a library based on el-Mansuri.
Aydın Sayılı was appointed as the Head of Atatürk Culture Center, which is one of the four units of Atatürk High Institution of Culture, Language and History that was established in 1984. He made great efforts to issue the journal named “Erdem” on behalf of Atatürk Culture Center. He retired from this duty in 1993. In the first month of his retirement he died of heart failure on October 15th, 1993 on the street. He was buried at Ankara Cebeci Asri Cemetery.
Aydın Sayılı was awarded with Copernicus Medal for his studies on Nicolaus Copernicus by the Polish government in 1973. He was deemed worthy of TÜBİTAK Service Award in 1977 and Istanbul University Outstanding Service Award in 1981. In 1980, Sayılı was elected as a member of the UNESCO International Editorial Board and in 1990 he received UNESCO Award for his lifetime services. Aydın Sayılı’s portrait was portrayed on the reverse side of the 5 Turkish Lira banknotes that got into circulation on January 1st, 2009.
Hayatta En Hakiki Mürşit İlimdir (1948), The Observatory in Islam (1960), Uluğ Bey ve Senerkand’daki İlmi Faaliyeti Hakkında Gıyaseddin-i Kaşi’nin Mektubu (1960), Abdülhamid İbn Türk’ün Katışık Denklemlerde Mantıkî Zaruretler Adlı Yazısı ve Zamanın Cebri (1962), Mısırlılarda ve Mezopotamyalılarda Matematik, Astronomi ve Tıp (1966), Copernicus and His Monumental Work (1973), Türkler ve Bilimler (Turkish, English, French and Arabic, 1976), Ortaçağ Bilim ve Tefekküründe Türklerin Yeri (1985).
REFERENCE: Prof. Dr. Esin Kaya / Ord. Prof. Dr. Aydın Sayılı’nın Ardından (Osmanlı Tarihi Araştırma ve Uygulama Merkezi Dergisi, sayı: 6, 1995), Mehmet Cemil Uğurlu / Büyük Bir Bilim Tarihçisi Ord. Prof. Dr. Aydın Sayılı (Erdem dergisi 1996, No. 26), Dursun Aydın / Ordinaryus Profesör Aydın Sayılı Bilim Tarihinde Türk Entelektüel Kimliği (2008), Remzi Demir - Doğan Atılgan, DTCF Fakültesi ve Türkiye’de Beşerî Bilimlerin Yeniden İnşası - Elli Portre (2008), Hülya Semiz / Türk Lirası ‘aydın’landı (İletim Gazetesi, Mart 2009), Ünlü Bilim Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 2, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013) - Resimli ve Metin Örnekli Türkiye Edebiyatçılar ve Kültür Adamları Ansiklopedisi (C. 12, 2017).