Science without Leisure

Practical Naturalism in Istanbul, 1660-1732

With clear prose and brilliant theoretical insights, Harun Küçük offers a refreshingly original and persuasive account of the connected global history of science and scientists in the Ottoman imperial metropole during the early modern period. This is the most important book in the field of both Ottoman studies and the histories of early modern science, one that will truly reorient our understanding of global intellectual history and challenge our entrenched assumptions about imagined civilizational borders between the West and the Ottoman East.
Cemil Aydin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Cemil Aydin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Science in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Istanbul, Harun Küçük argues, was without leisure, a phenomenon spurred by the hyperinflation a century earlier when scientific texts all but disappeared from the college curriculum and inflation reduced the wages of professors to one-tenth of what they were in the sixteenth century. It was during this tumultuous period that philosophy and theory, the more leisurely aspects of naturalism—and the pursuit of “knowledge for knowledge’s sake”—vanished altogether from the city. But rather than put an end to science in Istanbul, this economic crisis was transformative, turning science into a practical matter, into something one learned through apprenticeship and provided as a service. In Science without Leisure, Küçük reveals how Ottoman science, when measured against familiar narratives of the Scientific Revolution, was remarkably far less scholastic and philosophical and far more cosmopolitan and practical. His book explains why as practical naturalists deployed natural knowledge to lucrative ends without regard for scientific theories, science in the Ottoman Empire over the long term ultimately became the domain of physicians, bureaucrats, and engineers rather than of scholars and philosophers.

336 Pages, 6 x 9 in.

December, 2019

isbn : 9780822945802

about the author

Harun Küçük

Harun Küçük is assistant professor of history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. His work explores the relationship between daily practices and science in Ottoman Istanbul.

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Harun Küçük