Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi was an Ottoman polymath and aviator of 17th century Istanbul.

Flight[edit | edit source]

The 17th century writings of Evliyâ Çelebi relate this story of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, circa 1630-1632:

"First he practiced by flying over the pulpit of Okmeydani eight or nine times with eagle wings, using the force of the wind. Then, as Sultan Murad Khan (Murad IV) was watching from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu, he flew from the very top of the Galata Tower and landed in the Doğancılar square in Üsküdar, with the help of the south-west wind. Then Murad Khan granted him a sack of golden coins, and said: 'This is a scary man. He is capable of doing anything he wishes. It is not right to keep such people,' and thus sent him to Algeria on exile. He died there".Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

The title Hezârfen, given by Evliyâ Çelebi to Ahmed Çelebi, means “a thousand sciences” (polymath).

The few people said to have made similar attempts at flight before him were Abbas Ibn Firnas, from 9th century Moorish Spain, and Eilmer of Malmesbury, a 12th century English monk.

Evliyâ Çelebi also tells of Hezarfen's brother, Lagari Hasan Çelebi, performing the first flight with a rocket in a conical cage filled with gunpowder in 1633. The exploits of the brothers were also mentioned by John Wilkins in his Discovery of a World in Moone in 1638.[1]

Another report[edit | edit source]

In 1648 John Wilkins cites Busbecq, the Austrian ambassador to Constantinople 1554-1562, as recording that "a Turk in Constantinople" attempted to fly.[2] However, if accurate, this citation refers to an event nearly a century prior to the exploits reported by Evliyâ Çelebi.

Site details[edit | edit source]

File:Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi Glider Flight Path.png

Glide path from the Galata district in Europe to the Üsküdar district on the Asian side of Istanbul

Measurements of the alleged launch height and flight distance are as follows:

  • The Galata Tower sits 35 m (115 ft) above sea-level, the peak of its conical dome 62.59 m (This subtemplate displays the fraction. ft) above ground level and 97.59 m (This subtemplate displays the fraction. ft) above sea-level.[3]
  • Doğancılar square is about 12 m (39 ft) above sea-level.
  • The elevation change between the tower (takeoff) and the square (landing) is 85.59 m (281 ft).
  • The distance between the tower and the square is approximately 3.358 km (2 mi).[4]
  • Glide ratio required is of 39:1

Popular culture[edit | edit source]

Evliyâ Çelebi's account of the exploits of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi is only three sentences long (of a ten volume work), but the story has great currency in Turkey. One of the three airports in Istanbul carries the name "Hezarfen Airfield", while a feature length film, İstanbul Kanatlarımın Altında (Istanbul Under My Wings, 1996) concerns the lives of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, his brother Lagari Hasan Çelebi, and the Ottoman society in the early 17th century, as witnessed and narrated by Evliyâ Çelebi.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Tosun Terzioğlu (2007), "The First Attempts of Flight, Automatic Machines, Submarines and Rocket Technology in Turkish History," The Turks (ed. H. C. Guzel), pp. 804-810
  2. Wilkins, John. Mathematicall Magick or the Wonders that may be performed by Mechanicall Geometry. In two books. Concerning Mechanicall Powers and Motions, London 1648, 204; also see a reprint of the same book in The Mathematical and Philosophical Works of John Wilkins to which is prefixed the author's life and an account of his works, 1802, vol. II, 201
  3. Official Galata Tower Web Site
  4. Distance and elevation for this calculation as provided by Google Earth- center of tower to center of square.
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