Portrait of an Intellectual: Şerif Mardin

Written by TR Dergisi

Şerif Mardin is a scientist who has written hundreds of articles, participated in numerous researches with many national and international accomplishments.

Ahmet Cevdet Bey was the figure who founded İkdam newspaper and managed it with an outstanding success for many years. However there was another Ahmet Cevdet Pasha known for his works such as Mecelle and History-i Cevdet. Our Ahmet Cevdet was a man of letters and a powerful journalist.

Ahmet Cevdet Bey also known as “İkdamcı Cevdet” had three daughters. The middle daughter’s name was Reya.

Reya’s older sister Ceyda, was married to an Egyptian nobleman named Abu Bakr Ratip. And Reya was living in Cairo together with her sister. Reya met Şemseddin Bey here. Şemseddin Bey was the son of the then governor of Syria and Lebanon. Rumour has it that Prophet Hussein was their ancestor.

Reya and Şemseddin… Both were children of wise, knowledgeable and noble families. They got married.

Şerif Mardin was born from this marriage on February 13th, 1927.

It was the early period in young Turkey that got out of the World War and immediately got back on its feet, defying the entire world. The country was in difficulty, but life was going on. Someone had to study, and make efforts for the state to recover. In 1940, Şerif enrolled in Lycee de Galatasaray, one of the most prominent schools in Turkey. Later he continued his education in America.


He studied biochemistry at Washington and Lee University for some time. In 1946, he completely changed his mind and started studying political sciences in Stanford University.

In 1950, at the age of 23, he completed his master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University in Washington. In the same year, he applied for a doctorate at Stanford University. Everything was going well. But he wanted to return to his motherland.

He was a young man who had successfully graduated from one of the most prestigious schools in the world, and at the age of 27, he became an assistant in Ankara University  Faculty of Political Sciences. It was a conscious decision for him to become an assistant in Turkey instead of studying for his doctoral degree in America. He became a writer in Forum Magazine.

In 1957, he ran to become a Hürriyet Party parliament member from Eskişehir however he was not elected. This defeat led him to abandon active politics. But he always thought about the political landscape of Turkey.

In 1958, Şerif Mardin was once again on the way to America. He presented his study titled of the Political Ideas of Young Turks to Stanford University, and this study once again earned him a doctoral degree. He worked as an assistant at Harvard and Princeton. After three year in America, he returned to Turkey.

In 1961, he became an assistant at Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences. This time his subject was “Constitutional Law”. Three years later, in 1964, he became an associate professor.

In 1969, at the age of 42, he received professor title. He had written hundreds of articles, participated in many researches and had the chance to think about the political progress of Turkey. In 1972, he left Ankara University.

In 1973, he founded the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Boğaziçi University. He acted as the founding dean of this faculty. He was also the Head of Sociology Department. He analysed the Republican period, and studied the modernization of Turkey.

He also became the Head of the Islamic Research Centre at American University in Washington. He taught at Columbia and California universities in the USA and at Oxford University in England. He was a respected researcher with international studies.

Between 1975-1980, he worked in International Middle East Studies Journal. He made a number of academic studies. He attended countless congresses.

He later found a more suitable ground to work on his study titled Reformation Period Turkish Thought and transferred to Sabancı University for this purpose.

In 2007, he was interviewed by Ruşen Çakır, who was working at Vatan Newspaper at the time. This interview introduced a brand new concept to Turkish language: Peer Pressure.

Years later he explained what he meant, and what he really tried to emphasize in that interview. His turn of phrase made all of us think again about the modernization process in Turkey.

In 2011, he received the title of “Emeritus”. It was certified that he was one of scholars of the academic community. His word was law.

Despite his advanced age, he continued to work. He continued to go to the university.

And September 6th, 2017.

Şerif Mardin, who spent almost the entire 90 years of his life with research, reading, writing and thinking, passed away in Istanbul.

Like every writer, he was buried among his books.

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TR Dergisi

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