22 Nisan 2015 Çarşamba

Copernicus and Ottoman

Copernicus introduced the general outline of his new theory in his treatise titled Commentariolus. He stated in this treatise that the Earth is only the center of the orbit of the Moon, not the center of the solar system, and that all the planets revolve around the Sun. He, however, left many deficits in his theory. He died after a few hours when he saw the first edition of his book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, on May 24, 1543 [1].

To the best of my knowledge, the Islamic world had first contact with Copernicus astronomy through Tazkiraji Kosa Ibrahim Effendi of Zigatwar's Arabic translation of Noel Duret's Latin text Novae Motuum Caelestium Ephemerides Rischelianae with corrections and additions under the title of Sajanja al-Aflaq fi Gayrat al-Idraq. He later translated into Ottoman Turkish. The heliocentric model, which led to the conflict between science and religion in Europe, was considered merely a scientific issue among the Ottoman scholars, who then preferred this model over the geocentric model, a.k.a. the Ptolemaic model [2].

The transition from the geocentric model to the heliocentric model resulted in the coordinate change, which did not have an effect in terms of the astronomical calculations. Tazkiraji Kosa Ibrahim Effendi says in his work [3]:

 “In 1461, Peurbach and Regiomontaus, German scholars,  determined the errors of Alfonso's Zij (astronomical table). Although Regiomontaus had begun to make observations in order to correct this zij, he died before completing his study. A few years later Nicolaus Copernicus established a new method in 1525, determining the errors of Alfonso's Zij and finding its basis unsound.

Copernicus, establishing a new basis, constructed a small new zij by assuming that the Earth was moving. This zij was in use for 60 years until the time of Tycho Brahe. 

While Tycho Brahe, in the coasts of Reine, was correcting Copernicus's Zij through observations with a great number of more accurate devices, the Bohemian military expedition began. Even though he desired to publish the drafts of his zij,  his life was not sufficiently long to finish that. The zij as good as Tycho's zij was eventually produced by his contemporary Longomontanus of Daina. 

After that, Johannes Kepler (d. 1630), who was working in the palace of the Spain King Rudolph, prepared an original zij to contain all the stars based on Tycho's observations, and called it Zij of Rudolph. As stated by Kepler, this zij was not consistent with all the observations because the positions of the stars Ptotemy observed did not match up to the positions in this zij. The solar and lunar eclipses also showed incongruity with this zij. Eventually Duret constructed a zij based on Lansberge's zij using 30 years of observations. I, Ibrahim al-Zigatwari and also known as Tazkiraji, had Duret's work brought from abroad and translated this work”.


[1] Robert B. Downs, Dünyayı Değiştiren Kitaplar [Books That Changed the World], Translation into Turkish by Erol Güngör, İstanbul, 2008, p.187,190. 

[2] Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Osmanlılar ve Bilim [Ottomans and Science], İstanbul, 2003, p. 37. 

[3] Ibid., p. 166-168.

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