İshak Efendi (Başhoca)

Mühendis, Eğitimci

Diğer İsimler
Başhoca, Yanyavî İshak, İshak b. Abdullah

Engineer, educator, reformer (B. ?, Narda / Ioannina – D. 1836). Originally belonging to a Jewish family, he was one of the pioneers establishing the modern science in Turkey. His name was referred as Yanyavî İshak” and İshak b. Abdullah in the sources.

By the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Centuries, military and technical high schools such as Mühendishane-i Bahri-i Hümayun (maritime school) were founded by aiming the modernization of the army within the cycles of innovation in the Ottoman Empire; İshak Efendi was one of the most important personalities among the scientists that provided the introduction of the modern science in the Ottoman Empire. The vast and fast translations of İshak Effendi formed one of the fundamental changes made in the science and educational life of the Ottoman before the Tanzimat (T.N. Reform) era.

İshak Effendi learnt the Hebrew in his family atmosphere and Greek in the town where he was born, he was trained in Turkish, Arabic and Persian; he studied at the Mühendishane (T.N. Engineering School) in between 1806-1814 along with his madrasah education.

İshak Efendi attracted the attention of the Head Teacher Hüseyin Rıfkı Tamanî with his intelligence, knowledge and hard work during his studentship in the Engineering School and when Tamanî was appointed to the repair of sacred buildings in 1816 in Medina he took İshak Effendi with him. When Hüseyin Rıfkı Tamanî died in Medina (1817), he was appointed as the assistant to an engineer named Ahmet Bey who replaced his place.

He was officially assigned to the translator position of the Divan-i Hümayun in 1824, keeping with this mission and maintaining his career in the Engineering School without prejudice, he was charged with the control and repair work on the fortifications in the Balkans and coasts in the last months of 1829.

While he was still a student, his in-depth knowledge of mathematics and engineering fields gained great fame to İshak Efendi. His knowledge was referred since he was sent to Medina when he was a student, and because some people from abroad come to take courses from him and also for the improvement of the training procedures in Mühendishane-i Berr-i Hümayun. He was appointed as the Head Teacher in this institution in December 1830 to provide the desired level of education in the Mühendishane-i Berri-i Humayun. When İshak Effendi was appointed to this service, he went in to make many changes and restore order in the Engineering School and primarily terminated the jobs of the inadequate teachers. The changes he made in this school's educational scheme attracted the attention of the managers of the period as well as the foreigners.

Parts of changes İshak Efendi made in courses in the Engineering School in 1833-1834 included the provision of material as well as bringing new applications in the education order. In the Takvim-i Vekayi newspaper dated October 22nd 1833 one-day of İshak Efendi's teaching in the Engineering school’s previous year’s class was described. In addition to training activities, İshak Efendi wrote or translated many books needed for science education during his service as an Engineering Head Teacher. It is also said that he had contributions to the chemical education and he wrote a book in this field during his works.

İshak Efendi had a character that was fond of the task and very hard-working, he valued his time either by reading, writing or translation in the day or at night, when he didn’t have a lecture in the Engineering School. Preparing many works in a short time such as nine years was an indication showing how hard working he was. He was very serious in his lessons and was a teacher who was training good students. It is understood from the memorial stone which was planted after his death at the Engineering school that he was loved and respected by everyone. It is also understood from the writings of the Esat Efendi, who collected information from his students who personally had known him, and from the memories of J. De Kay who personally had seen him, that he had had a very colorful personality and unique habits and interests, especially drinking the water pipe, and affected the people whom he had met.

Şemseddin Sami Bey stated that he was “The most famous scholar of the last Ottoman era”. Among the students he trained were chemist Derviş Pasha, Müşir (Marshal) Emin Pasha and many scientists and statesmen who took part in the development of the modern West science in the Ottoman Empire such as Esat Pasha. Besides being an educator, the works that İshak Efendi translated, adapted and wrote are also very important. As one of the most important people who provided the introduction of modern western science into the Ottoman Empire, it is necessary to carry out a comprehensive research on the works İshak Effendi wrote. His place in the history of Ottoman science and culture will be determined better by the determination of his contributions especially in the generation of the new scientific terminology and his effect in the settlement of the new terms. He was not only effective in the Mühendishane-i Berrî-i Hümayun; his works were taught in the other modern military and civilian schools of the Ottoman Empire. The republication of his work Mecmuâ-ı Ulûm-ı Riyâziye in Bulak within 1841-1845, showed that his impact had reached as far as Egypt. A portion of his work was not published.


Rekzi ve Nasbu’l-Hıyam, Tuhfetü’l-Ümerâ fi Hıfz-ı Kıla (These two books are about the techniques of war), Methal fi'l Coğrafya (1831), Usul üs-siyağa (Top Dökme Sanatı, Adaptaion of the French books, 1831), Mecmua-i Ulûm-ı Riyâziye (The first book that presents the published Turkish texts of various nature and math sciences in the Ottoman science literature such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, botany, zoology and mineralogy 1831), Usûl-i İstîhkâmât (1834), Aksu’l Merâyâ fi Ahzi’z-Zevâyâ (1835, includes information about the use of height and distance measuring instruments).

   REFERENCE: Prof. Avram Galanti / Türkler ve Yahudiler (1928), Bursalı Tahir Bey / Osmanlı Müellifleri (1915), Dr. A. Adnan Adıvar / Osmanlı Türklerinde İlim ve Din (1943), İsmail Soysal / Fransız İhtilali ve Türk-Fransız Diplomasi Münasebetleri (1964), Muzaffer Erendil / Topçuluk Tarihi (1988), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu / Başhoca İshak Efendi: Türkiye'de Modern Bilimin Öncüsü (1989), Alb. Nuri Aktaş / Topçu ve Füze Okulu’nun 200. Kuruluş Yıldönümü 1795-1995 (1995), TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi (c. 22, 2000), İhsan Işık / 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).



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