The Istanbul History of Science and Technology in Islam Museum needs a new name. Look, Disneyland wouldn’t be nearly as popular if it were called “The Anaheim Place of Enjoyment and Fun with Cartoon Characters Theme Park”. Yes, we know exactly what to expect from the Istanbul History of Science and Technology in Islam Museum, but by the time we’re done saying its name, we no longer feel like going!
While Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, the world’s most advanced learning was being done by Islamic thinkers. In the West, we like to pretend that humanity’s higher scientific achievements all happened after the Renaissance. But the IHSTIM (I’m not typing that out again) is there to remind us that Copernicus wasn’t the first to look toward the stars. Descartes didn’t exactly invent the scientific method. And one the first tasks of Renaissance-age medicine was the translation of Arab medical texts.
Most of the items on display in the IHSTIM are modern reconstructions of historical devices, based on plans and blueprints, and not the ancient models themselves. That was initially disappointing, but it’s actually better to examine the intact replica of an antique Armillary sphere, for example, than the rusted old remains of an original. The museum had a ton of exhibits; we particularly enjoyed the ingenious clocks, which used elements like water and fire to keep track of time. The celestial globes, the models of early observatories, and strange mathematical devices like beautifully-designed astrolabes were also worth spending time at.
The museum was larger than I expected, and we were visiting toward the end of a long day spent in Gülhane Park, so we eventually succumbed to fatigue. Turns out that there’s a limit to the number of antiquated sextants a person can admire before losing interest. But still, the museum is certainly worth a visit, especially for anyone with curiosity in scientific history.