Uluğ Bey

Hükümdar, Matematik Bilgini, Astronom

22 Mart, 1394
25 Ekim, 1449
Diğer İsimler
Muğisüddin Mirza Muhammed Turagan İbni Şahruh

Mathematician, astronomer, ruler (B. 22 March 1394, Sultaniyeh / Uzbekistan – D. 25 October 1449, Bağrın / Samarkand). Although his real name was Muhammed Tarağay, his grandfather Timur started using the name Ulugh Beg when was alive, thus his real name was forgotten. His full name was Muğisüddin Mirza Muhammed Turagan İbni Şahruh. He was son of Timur’s (1336-1405) youngest son Muiniddin Bahadır Mirza and Şahruh Hanım, whose father was Gıyasettin Tarhan, one of Çağatay noblemen. He spent his childhood and youth by protecting Saraymülk and Şahmelik, who were wives of Timur. He was given the responsibility of governing the state at a young age. During Timur was celebrating his victories in 1404, he married his five grandsons off, who were ranging between nine and seventeen in age. Ulugh Beg was eleven years old at that time and one of the princes who were married off. According to the study made by historian G. Hondemir, it came out that Ulugh Beg had five wives.

At the young ages, Ulugh Beg visited the ruins of Merağa Observatory that was established by Nasirüddin Tûsî (Tûs 1201-Baghdad 1274) in 1259. Remaining observatory ruins that he saw there aroused his curiosity for astronomy profoundly. In this case, it may suggest that the interest that he showed to astronomy may have been originated from his childhood. Bursalı Kadızâde was at Samarkand during his youth and was appointed as his teacher. He learnt the first knowledge from Bursalı Kadızâde and also he made great contributions for development of the scientific thought in the ensuing years.

Ulugh Beg is noted for his studies in the fields of science and culture rather than combat and politics, and had beautiful madrasahs built in Bukhara around 1417 and in Samarkand around 1434. Astronomical tables known as “Zic-i Ulugh Beg” or “Zic-i Cedid-i Sultanî”, which he prepared as a result of the observations done in the observatory established in Samarkand in 1420, as he made Samarkand one of the main science centers of the Islamic civilization by gathering famous scholars into his palace, have an important place in the history of science.

The basis of astronomical studies is formed by trigonometry basics, which are one of the fundamentals of the mathematics. For this reason, Ulugh Beg also made extensive studies on trigonometry: such studies begun with calculating the value of sine of 1 degree arch. These studies were started by leaving the previous conjectural and approximate studies of Eastern and Western world scholars’. He made an attempt to mark a new research era in the trigonometry and showed his ability in this area by determining calculation bases based on algebra and geometry. Ulugh Beg, who is considered as a 15th century astronomer in the science world, also gave importance to artistic values like his grandfather Timur and his father M. Şahruh Mirza and showed respect to artists.

After his grandfather Timur’s death on 14 February 1405, there were many changes in administrative system. Ulugh Beg governed Transoxiana, where he was appointed as governor general, as a ruler. However, he faced uprisings of the members of the dynasty. He succeeded to get his nephews Ebubekir and Alaüddevle out of the way but failed to prevent one of his nephews Sultan Muhammed from taking over the Fars region. Ulugh Beg left Samarkand as a result of these sources of sadness and went to his father in Herat. Upon the remedy of the situation, he was appointed as ruler of Transoxiana and Khorasan provinces in 1413 by his father Muinüddin Bahadır. Ulugh Beg ruled Khorasan and Transoxiana provinces faultlessly during his father Muinüddin Bahadır Mirza was reigning Herat. In those years, the Uzbeks were attacking to him frequently. On the one hand he was trying to prevent those attacks; on the other hand he was dealing with the construction of Khorasan and Transoxiana provinces. He did not send the earnings collected there to Herat; instead he spent them for the construction of his country by building mosque, inn, bathhouse and palace in Samarkand.  At the same time, he was building science, art and culture communities by building madrasah and observatory. He did not disregard the works necessary for the construction, civilization and welfare of the lands under his rule. In fact, Muinüddin Bahadır Mirza tried approximately for forty years to make Samarkand a science, art and culture center. Considering its situation during the period of Timur, Samarkand was an old culture center. Khorasan and Transoxiana Khanate of Ulugh Beg that took about thirty eight years was not only a welfare, development and growth period for Samarkand, where he chose as capital, but also for Khorasan and Transoxiana region from end to end.

Upon death of Muinittin Şahruh Bahadır Mirza on 13 March 1448, Ulugh Beg succeeded him as his eldest son alive. Thus, as he became the ruler of Eastern Turkish Khanate, there were continuous fights for the throne and ambition in Khorasan and Transoxiana again. Upon news informing the rebellion in Samarkand, this scholar ruler having a sedate and peaceful nature left the war he was fighting with his son R. Abdüllâtif Mirza for the throne and marched into Samarkand. Ulugh Beg’s army was defeated by his son Abdüllâtif Mirza’s army after a fierce war fought during the months September-October 1449. Old and scholar ruler, who lost his throne and reputation by this way, wretchedly wanted to nestle in Samarkand. Miranşah Kavçin, who was appointed as the ruler of Samarkand Ulugh Beg, rejected him and kept him out. Upon this, Ulugh Beg runs away towards Turkistan border in order to escape from the hands of the soldiers of Abdüllâtif Mirza, his son who was chasing him. In the meantime, Abdüllâtif Mirza entered Samarkand and declared himself ruler there. Ulugh Beg threw himself on the mercy of his son at the end because he could not find a place to nestle and run. However, his son was harsh and merciless to his father. The traitor son Abdüllâtif Mirza allowed Abbas, who was an old foe of Ulugh Beg, to kill his father, and fatwa was taken from men of God in this respect. Upon this, Abbas got Ulugh Beg caught in Bağrın village of Samarkand on 24 October 1449 and got him killed. Tomb of Ulugh Beg is under the same roof his grandfather Timur’s tomb in Samarkand.

Ulugh Beg was a kind, good-natured person that always researched and learnt new knowledge. It is understood from examination of his works that this characteristic of him played a big role in development of his scientific mentality. His modesty and courtesy are indications of his honesty and seriousness. He was always interested in serious matters and tried to create scientific background and environment. Belligerencies related to warfare and invasion that were inherited from his grandfather Timur reveal themselves in his siblings more. Ulugh Beg always preferred to avoid such aims unless there were serious necessities.

Among other valuable scientists that he gathered by scientific establishments such as Samarkand Madrasah and Samarkand Observatory that he established, Ulugh Beg is known as a genuine scientist rather than statesman. He held meetings related to scientific matters with this scientist group very often. He listened to advanced level lectures in those meetings and also he gave lectures when needed. Subject of the lecture was based on mathematics and astronomy in general. Astronomical tables known as Zeyç Kürkânî” or “Zeyç Cedit Sultani” have an important part in the history of science both in the East and West.

One of the master copies of Zeyç Kürkani was brought to Turkey after Iraq and Iran wars and it is still at the Hagia Sophia Library. 

REFERENCE: W. Barthold / Uluğ Bey ve Zamanı (çev. Nimet Akdes Tahiroğlu, (s.96, 1930), İbrahim Aledddin Gövsa / Türk Meşhurları (1946), H. Ziya Ülken / İslâm Felsefesi Tarihi (s. 301, 1957), Kemal Zülfü Taneri / Türk Matematikçileri (s.43, 1958), Aydın Sayılı / Uluğ Bey ve Semerkant’daki İlim Faaliyeti Hakkında Gıyasüddin-i Kâşî'nin Mektubu (s. 77, 1969), A. Süheyli Ünver / Bursalı Kadızâde Rûmî ve Devrinin Öteki Bilimcileri (s.7, 1970), Sigrid Hunke / İslâmın Güneşi Avrupa'nın Üzerinde (1975, s. 113), Büyük Larousse (s. 11934, 1986), Uluğ Bey (1995), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Bilim Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 2, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013). 


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