Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Lighthouse and the Observatory: Islam, Authority, and Cultures of Astronomy in Late Ottoman Egypt
Authors: Stolz, Daniel
Advisors: Zaman, M. Qasim
Contributors: Near Eastern Studies Department
Keywords: Astronomy
Subjects: Middle Eastern history
History of science
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is a history of astronomy in three cultural locations in late Ottoman Egypt: the scholarly culture of Muslim ulama, the state institution of the Viceregal Observatory, and the Arabic press. Through an interwoven history of these cultures, the dissertation sheds light on the changing relationship between science, state, and Islam in a transformative period for all three. By doing so, it addresses current debates in the history of Islamic authority, the history of science in the modern Middle East, and the history of science in a global context. Chapters One and Three focus on the continuity of Islamic astronomy among traditionally educated Muslim scholars (ulama). These chapters demonstrate the social and cultural relevance of Islamic astronomy in late Ottoman Egypt, and they uncover ways in which ulama were able to integrate new astronomical methods and technologies into this tradition of knowledge. Chapters Two and Five examine the history of the Viceregal Observatory in Cairo and those associated with it, first under the rule of the Ottoman Viceroys and subsequently under British administration. These chapters relate the emergence of new types of astronomical knowledge and practices in late Ottoman Egypt to a new relationship between science and the state. The shaping of scientific knowledge in late Ottoman Egypt was not, however, confined to the rarefied spaces of scholarly discourse and state observatories. Public debates were equally crucial, especially when it came to defining new astronomical knowledge as a kind of Islamic knowledge. Chapter Four argues that the cultural and political agendas of those who shaped the emerging Arabic press in this period generally led them to erase the possibility of an Islamic science grounded in the tradition of science among the ulama. Instead, they opted to legitimize new astronomy through the reinterpretation of "Sharia texts." While the reconciliation of revealed knowledge with natural knowledge had precedent in Islamic tradition, it bore different implications when the people responsible for these kinds of knowledge were newly distinct from each other. The final chapter of the dissertation continues to examine public debates about astronomy. It focuses on changing conceptions of certain Islamic practices in early twentieth-century Egypt in light of the role played by the Viceregal Observatory in the regulation of timekeeping. Drawing together the three cultures of astronomy historicized in this dissertation, the chapter shows how both the post-Ottoman state and the Islamic reformers of the Arabic press sought to implement new kinds of unity in the core Islamic practices of prayer and fasting.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Stolz_princeton_0181D_10698.pdf118.52 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.