The Ottoman Ambassador’s Curiosity Coffer: Eclipse Prediction with De La Hire’s “Machine” Crafted by Bion of Paris

  • Feza GünergunEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 275)


The transmission of technical knowledge from Europe to the Ottoman world has come to be studied mainly within the modernization attempts of Ottoman educational institutions and the Ottoman military. Individual efforts deployed in the transmission process and the encounter between the newly transmitted knowledge and the local practices still remain as an intriguing domain to study. The present paper focuses a Turkish treatise accounting for the eclipse calculator designed Philippe de La Hire (1640–1718) and manufactured by Nicolas Bion (1652–1733). This calculator was brought from Paris to Istanbul by Mehmed Said Efendi (d. 1761), the Ottoman ambassador in Paris in 1741–1742. The translation of the calculator's manual to Turkish was made by the mathematician Mustafa Sıdkı Efendi (d. 1769–1770) whose explanations witnesses his intention to adapt this instrument for predicting the date of eclipses to the Islamic calendar in use in Ottoman society.


Circular Plate Solar Eclipse Full Moon Lunar Eclipse Paris Observatory 
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I am grateful to the following persons who kindly sent me material and shared information during my research: Paul Gagnaire who, in 2006, kindly sent me a copy of the “Chapter V” together with the figure of the eclipse calculator from Nicolas Bion’s Traité de Construction (Paris, 1752). Thanks to this material, I was able to compare the French text and the Turkish translation. My cordial thanks go to Atilla Bir and Mustafa Kaçar who have kindly contributed to the technical drawing of the eclipse calculator “De La Hire – Bion” and to Gaye Danışan who diligently assisted in accounting for the astronomical principles involved in its design and functioning. I am also grateful to David A. King who affirmed that equatoria were known to the Ottomans; to Marvin Bolt (Adler Planetarium, Chicago) for sending me information on and a high resolution image of the eclipseometrum kept in Adler Museum’s collection; to Peter Kristiansen (Royal Danish Collections, Rosenborg Castle, Kopenhagen) for providing me with Claus Thykier’s article on O. Römer’s instruments; to M. Kaçar who kindly fulfilled my request and made a photocopy of an issue of the Mercure de France (issue Juin 1742) at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF, Paris); to Sara Yontan and Nilgün Paner from BNF for sending me J.-Y. Sarazin’s article; to Christophe Benoit (Nice Observatory) for directing my attention to the Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Sciences; to Nilüfer Gökçe (Trakya University, Edirne) and Musa Öncel (The Public Library of Edirne) for providing me with information on the provenance of the manuscript containing Sıdkı Efendi’s translation kept at the Selimiye Library, Edirne; to Darina Martykanova for reading the final manuscript and her remarks. Last but not least, I am much indebted to Şeref Etker for his inspiring and useful comments.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of the History of Science, Faculty of LettersIstanbul UniversityIstanbulTurkey

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