Science Bridge from History to the Future

Written by TR Dergisi

The works and projects of Fuat Sezgin, the pioneer of a science bridge that extends between the history of Islam to date, is lastly about a library he established…

Born in 1924 in Bitlis, Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin received his first education in Erzurum. In 1943 he came to Istanbul to study mathematics and become an engineer. Later he met with German Orientalist professor Hellmut Ritter at the Istanbul University Oriental Research Institute. The lessons Ritter gave, brought Fuat Sezgin’s interest in history to light, and he radically changed the plans for his education.

Fuat Sezgin’s professor Ritter advised him to start learning Arabic. Fuat Sezgin studied Arabic and was able to easily read Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s book Ihyau Ulûmi’d-Din.

After completing his thesis on “Evolution of Bedîʿ Science” in 1947, he prepared a second thesis on the philological explanation of Abu Ubeyde Me’mar ibn al-Musennâ’s Mecâzu’l-Kur’ân with consultancy of Hellmut Ritter. Sezgin realized that some parts of Mecâzu’l-Kur’ân, on which he conducted research for his doctoral thesis, were taken from Muhammad al-Bukhari’s hadith book. The fact that Al-Bukhari benefited from written sources, proved that the theses that journals by scholars’ and narrators’ were exclusively based on oral tradition, are false. In 1956 he also published his thesis titled “Research on Buhâri’s Sources”.

Due to the political situation of 1960, Sezgin was forced to continue his scientific studies outside Turkey. He continued his research and teaching activities at the University of Frankfurt. In 1965, he wrote his second doctoral thesis on Câbir ibn Hayyan in Frankfurt University Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften and earned professor title a year later.

Fuat Sezgin published the first volume of History of Arabic-Islamic Science that is the most comprehensive work written in the subject since the beginning of human history, in 1967. The work (GAS) is comprised of 17 volumes and some of the topics in various volumes, include: Quranic sciences, hadith sciences, history, fiqh, kalam, mysticism, poetry, medicine, zoology, veterinary medicine, alchemy, chemistry, botany, agriculture, mathematics, astronomy and related fields, grammar, mathematical geography, cartography in Islam, and history of Islamic philosophy.

Behind each volume of this serious work, was an important goal. Professor Fuat summarizes this goal and purpose as follows: “My goal is to present the members of Islam community the truth of Islamic sciences, to free them of the false judgements that negatively affect their senses of self and for them to gain faith in the creativity of individual.”



 In 1982, Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin founded the Institute for History of Arabic-Islamic Science affiliated to Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, in order to expand his work in the field of history of Islamic science and to reach more students. On the other hand, he adopted a different path in parallel with his academic studies. Thus Sezgin, inspired by the models of Islamic scientific devices made by German physicist Eilhard Wiedemann between 1900 and 1928, started modelling himself and opened the History of Islamic Science Museum in Frankfurt, reaching more than 800. In the same building was located the History of Sciences Library which featured thousands of volumes of books, Sezgin had meticulously collected from all around the world, facing troubles and hardships. This library, featuring various original or one-of-a-kind books in their respective fields, was a specialized collection library which is unique in the world in History of Islamic Sciences.

At the end extraordinary efforts and works of Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin and Dr. Ursula Sezgin, a second museum was established in 2008 in the building in Gülhane Park in Istanbul. Both museums present a broad overview of inventions and discoveries of Muslim scholars over centuries that made their marks and the evolution of various science disciplines in the history of science which is a novelty in the world. There is a catalogue entitled “Science and Technology in Islam” which  consists of 5 volumes in total written by Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin which introduced these models and structures, and published in Turkish, English, German and French languages.

In 2010, in order to support the activities of the Istanbul History of Islamic Science and Technology Museum, Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin Research on History of Islamic Science Foundation was founded.

A member of various international academies, Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin has been deemed worthy of numerous important awards and medals. He is an honorary member of Arabic Language Academy in Cairo, Arabic Language Academy in Damascus, the Royal Academy of Rabat Morocco, Arabic Language Academy in Baghdad, and Turkish Academy of Sciences. He also received the King Faisal Award, Frankfurt am Main Goethe Plaque, the German First Degree Federal Service Medal, German Outstanding Service Medal, Iran Islamic Sciences Book Award, Hessen Culture Award and the Turkish Presidential Culture and Art Grand Prize.

Sezgin family returned to Turkey in 2017, and the family has made tremendous efforts for formation and establishment of research library. They have inherited the books they have preserved throughout their lives to researchers, setting an example in this field.

 The staff of Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin and Dr. Ursula Sezgin History of Sciences Research Library affiliated to Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism continue to work under the leadership of Fuat Sezgin. Within the scope of the project, the former Telegraph building located in Gülhane Park has been restored and prepared for survival of this great heritage. The library features books and periodicals in the field of History of Science mainly in Arabic and in Turkish, German, English, French, Persian and other languages.

The most basic building block of the collection is GAS series, and facsimile complete works comprised of a total of 1134 volumes published by Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin in Frankfurt Goethe University History of Arabic-Islamic Science. These volumes feature History of Islamic Science research in Arabic, German, English and French as well as languages such as Greek, Latin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin and Dr. Ursula Sezgin History of Sciences Library aims to reach international researchers both with its location in Istanbul and a staff specialized in the history of sciences. Its primary and most important purpose is to ensure the academic development of the history of sciences and to hand it down to future generations by appealing to visitors of all ages who currently conduct or will conduct related studies in this field.

The enrichment of history perception of future generations with inspiration from Fuat Sezgin’s life built on science, can yield successful results if it is carried out in accordance with discipline and proper methods.

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TR Dergisi

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