Theme 3: Astronomical Theories and Practices

An example for Zatü’l kürsi (Celestial globe), which represents Islamicate tradition with some European influence (Seyyid Ali bin Hüseyin, Mirʾat-ı Kâinat, Istanbul University Rare Books Library, MS T1804, f.101r).

This theme seeks to pin down the astronomical theories and practices in Ottoman society. Therefore, it pursues answers to the following questions:

  • Theories, Calculations and Predictions: Which theoretical ideas served as a point of departure for subsequent developments in astronomy? How and through which texts were astronomy studied in formal and nonformal settings? What role did collections of data emanating from sky observations play regarding cross-cultural interactions for astronomical calculations, predictions, and theoretical interpretations? How did observational activities test and modify astronomical theories? In Ottoman astronomy, did theory and observation develop in isolation from one another or together? How did Ottoman scholars balance between theories and observations of phenomena such as planetary brightness, eclipses, transits, and even comets? Why was the information contained in the calendars such a broad spectrum? How was the relationship between the persons preparing the calendars and calendar users related to examining the practical aspects of calendars?
  • Astronomical instruments: What factors determined the diversity of astronomical instruments in the Ottoman territory? How can one trace and explain the parallel development of astronomical instruments in the Ottoman tradition and Europe? How can one trace the diffusion and development of types of instruments through material and manuscript evidence in the Ottoman culture? Were the Ottoman scholars, who occupied themselves with astronomy and timekeeping, only munajjims and muwaqqits, or were there other types of scholars in the Ottoman societies who contributed to astronomy?
  • Navigation and Nautical Astronomy: What kind of strategies were developed by seafaring people in different parts of the world for navigation? Which astronomical elements were developed in this connection for orientation, calendar purposes, and time reckoning? How influential were differences in geographical conditions on the development of navigation and nautical astronomy? What role did nautical astronomy play regarding cross-cultural interaction? What were the theoretical and practical aspects of nautical astronomy in Ottoman navigation? To what extent were the navigational techniques and instruments used by different cultures in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean utilised by the Ottoman sailors?

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