KOERI_old_logoThe First Observatory in the Ottoman Empire Istanbul Observatory

“Darür Rasad-ül Cedid” 

The first person to introduce scientific astronomy to the madrasah was Ali Kuşçu. Ali Kuşçu was the pupil of Uluğ Bey, who founded the Samarkand Observatory in 1450. He became the director of the Samarkand Observatory following the death of Kadızade-i Rumi, and helped complete the Zic-i Uluğ Bey (Uluğ Bey Chart). After Uluğ Bey was killed, Ali Kuşçu remained for a time at the court of Uzun Hasan, ruler of the Akkoyunlu. He was sent as an envoy to Fatih Sultan Mehmet (the Conqueror) to establish peace among the Ottoman and Akkoyunlu states, and was shown great hospitality by the Sultan. Upon the invitation of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, he later came to Istanbul for a second time together with his family and colleagues, and in a short while Fatih appointed him as the professor of the Hagia Sophia Madrasah. He prepared the curriculum at the Fatih complex together with Molla Hüsrev, and tought mathematics and astronomy. Furthermore, he measured the latitude and longitude of Istanbul, and made several sundials.

After his death in 1474, there was no one interested in astronomy for a long time, and astronomy was only used to determine prayer times or the adjustment of the timing of the call to prayer. In other words, timekeepers took the place of astronomers. 

When Tycho Brahé, who improved upon Copernicus’ revolution in astronomy (In his book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium – On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” Copernicus had declared that the sun was at the center of the solar system), founded the Uraniborg Observatory in Denmark in 1576, in the Ottoman Empire the studies in the field were suspended since a long time. However, the first observatory was established almost simultaneously (1577) by Takiyüddin, a teacher from the Madrasah of Egypt, upon the permission of Murad III. Born in Damascus in 1521, Takiyüddin came to Istanbul in 1571 and was appointed the chief astrologer in the same year. Following his personal studies on the Galata Tower under unfavorable circumstances, he established one of the most significant observatories of that century on the Pera Hill behind Tophane (“a place the color of Turqouise, towards the French palace…”), next to the French Embassy. A simple observatory building was erected on this piece of land, in addition to housing for his previously-built instruments. The observatory also had a library. In addition to reproducing available instruments in smaller size,Takiyüddin also invented several new instruments, and made observations on the Moon, the Sun, and other planets. He designed sundials and mechanical clocks, and used the clock as an instrument for observation. The comet which appeared on the sky for about a month beginning from 11 September 1577 was observed by Takiyüddin and took its place among the initial scientific studies at the observatory. 

Takiyüddin prophesied that this event foretold a victory against the Persian army. On 1578, upon the deaths caused by the plague epidemic, Şeyhülislam Ahmet Şemseddin Efendi wrote a letter to the Sultan and issued a fatwa, upon which the observatory was demolished by Admiral of the Navy Kılıç Ali Pasha’s cannons. However, Takiyüddin continued his work on astronomy by his own means until his death. 

Observatoire Impérial Météorologique

“Rasathane-i Amire-i Alaimül-cev” 

Until the Reformation, astronomy in the Middle Ages was still being taught in the madrasahs of the Ottoman Empire, using books from that age. After the reforms by the Mühendishane-i Berri on 1825, and by the Military Academy on 1845, astronomy started to be taught seriously particularly in the secondary schools opened in 1838 and in the high schools opened in 1869. A telescope was even supplied to the Military Academy, where astronomy was a serious subject, but this telescope was completely destroyed in the fire during the Crimean War. 

The second observatory in the Ottoman era was established not for astronomy, but for meteorology. Before this center was established, beginning from the Reformation (1839), many meteorological observatories were built by foreigners in various cities such as Istanbul, İzmir, Trabzon, Tekirdağ, and Merzifon both as private, and public establishments. The very first known temperature readings are the meteorological observations made by the Priest Dalmas at the St.Benôit monastery between 1839-1847. Later William Lane, an Englishman who came to Istanbul during the Crimean War, made observations at the British Cemetery at Haydarpaşa. W. Noe, director of the Mekteb-i Fünun-u Şahane made observations at the house in Kalyoncukulluk where he lived until the Beyoğlu Fire in 1848; and finally, it is known that French engineer Ritter, who was invited by the government for water works in Kuruçeşme (1856-1860) also conducted meteorological observations. Observations on precipitation and humidity conducted between 1875-1892 by an amateur observer on the Thomson Farm in Erenköy are invaluable on the subject of Istanbul’s climate. These observations have been published in Budapest in 1928. Excellent observations on heat, pressure and humidity, made in the summer residence of the Russian ambassador on Büyükada have also been published, in the Annales St.Petersburg. 

With the discovery of the thermometer, barometer, and other measurement devices in the 17th Century, it has become possible to define atmosphere; or in other words, to measure heat, pressure, humidity, cloud type, solar intensity, wind power and direction. Consequently, data began to be collected at many observatories and various altitudes. Whereas data from the meteorological observatories scattered over a large area enable weather forecasts; only after the invention of the telegraph has information exchange between observatories picked up, the data were processed on maps, and regional weather forecasts as well as monitoring meteorological conditions became possible. 

In 1848, a newspaper owner from England has for the first time published meteorological observations from the Greenwich Observatory using the telegraph. In 1858, the French government established the first observatory communicating data over the telegraph, and in 1863, by compiling meteorological data in France, the French National Meteorological Network has started operations. In 1868, upon the recommendation of the French government, the Rasathane-i Âmire was founded to convey meteorological forecasts to certain centers by telegraph. Instruments were purchased from leading European factories, and operations started on top of a hill 74 metres high on Pera. The first director was Mr. Aristide Coumbray, who came to Istanbul to renovate the telegraph network. (Instruments commissioned from France were set up at Mr. Coumbary’s home, which stood at the garden of the Swedish Embassy. The observatory was later moved after its offices were prepared.) Coumbary has represented Turkey in the first international meteorology congress, convened in Wien five years later in 1873. 

Rasathane-i Âmire worked by the same system as the National Meteorology Center in France. In the observation books of 1868 (August-November), names of affiliated stations are given us Soulina, Köstence (Constantia), Varna, Burgaz, Valona, Elbassan, Durazzo, and Beyrut (Beirut). Later, stations in İzmir, Diyarbakır, Bağdat, and Fao were also added. 

Observations made in Istanbul and compiled from other meteorological stations have been regularly published in a journal called the Observations Meteorologique du Réseau Oriental. At the same time, these values were being daily recorded on synoptic maps. Observation readings from the Rasathane-i Âmire, which functioned under difficult conditions, have been published, and these are of a quality to inform about Istanbul’s climate. The Rasathane-i Âmire was part of the organization of the Telegraph Ministry at the beginning, but was later transferred to Education, and then to Public Works Ministries. The staff during these first years consisted of Mr. Coumbary, who was the director, physician Mr.Montani, who was responsible for communications and mapping, mathematician Emil Lacoine Efendi, who did the calculations and prepared the annals. In subsequent years, a clerk and an office boy to take the data to the Post Office and newspapers, as well as to undertake all the monthly services of the observatory were added. 

Some time after earthquake waves were recorded for the first time by instruments in 1880, the Great Istanbul Earthquake happened on 10 June 1894. Seismic recordings of this earthquake could not be made as there were no experts on seismology and earthquakes in the Empire. 

Abdülhamid II requested the 1894 Istanbul Earthquake to be scientifically studied, and invited D.Eginitis, Director of the Athens Observatory for this purpose. A private ship was allocated in order for the research and analyses to be done more quickly, and the Director of the Istanbul Observatory, as well as Emil Lacoine Efendi accompanied him. A report was prepared based on the field studies conducted by this team and various information received by telegraph from provinces, and presented to the Sultan on 20 August 1894. 

After the great Istanbul Earthquake of 1894, it was observed that the observatory lacked instruments for seismological measurements. It was intended to purchase these, and following a search, the seismographs were commissioned from Italy. Two seismographs were purchased at 3,200 Franks each. One was installed at the observatory, and the other at the Yıldız Palace, which was the residence of the Sultan. Upon the recommendation of Sig. Tacini, Director of the Rome Observatory, Italian seismologist G. Agamemnone, Earthquake Director at the Rome Observatory was formally invited to Istanbul by the government of the day. During the two years he stayed, Agamemnone joined the Rasathane-i Âmire staff. He installed a number of seismographs in Istanbul, and taught seismology to young students. He also founded the “Ottoman Empire Earthquake Service”, and published a bulletin including seismic notes for 1894,1895, and the beginning of 1896. 

Agamemnone established a network consisting of observers on railways, ports, telegraph offices, provincial government offices and foreign consulates all over the empire. However, this macroseismic observation network has crashed a short time after he left Istanbul in 1897. As in meteorological observations, seismic observations also were conducted not by authorities, but by foreigners in Turkey. Pére Guerovich made a collection of unpublished data on earthquakes in Turkey between 1801-1906. This collection was preserved at the Lycée Saint-Benoit, and included bulletins of seismographic measurements conducted by the high school, as well as other notes on previous earthquakes. All these materials were lost when the Ottoman army invaded the school in 1914. Earthquake records made by Mr. Rigg, Director of the Fırat Academy in Harput, on the school’s seismology station between 1905-1906 included significant information on earthquakes in Anatolia. 

Although established as a meteorological observatory, it is understood from the document and publications at hand that the Rasathane-i Âmire also made an effort to become an astronomical and seismological observatory. For example, the petition submitted by the director Mr.Coumbary to the then Sadrazam (Prime Minister) is noteworthy. Here he says that the observatory’s significant place among worldwide observatories has been recognized by experts and publications, and that in addition to meteorological observations, which are the institution’s main area of interest, there is also an interest towards other events. Within this context, the purchase of a star clock with pendulum and a theodolite was discussed in order to adjust clocks in Istanbul in accordance with the correct and scientific method. The Rasathane-i Âmire Salname (annals) that were published in 1872 and signed by Coumbary is an astronomical calendar where subjects like planets, comets, distances to stars in light-years, converting star time into solar time, determining height of stars, determining latitude, etc. are discussed. Coumbary himself published a catalogue of earthquakes, filed the earthquakes announced to the Observatory from various regions of the Empire, and shared this information with his colleagues. 

After Coumbary’s death, mathematician Salih Zeki Bey was appointed as the director of Rasathane-i Âmire. The developments during the appointment of Salih Zeki are not known very well. However, following two earthquakes in Nazilli-Uşak-Aydın and the Malazgirt-Muş region, he asked permisson from the Ministry of Education to do field work in the region. It is known that an order was issued to send him to Aydın together with Said Bey, the observatory clerk. During his term of office, he also taught at the Darüşşafaka, the Mülkiye (School of Political Sciences), and the Darülfünun (Istanbul University). 

Following Salih Zeki Bey’s appointment as the director the Darülfünun in 1906, the observatory was transferred by Bedii Bey the clerk from the telegraph office across the barracks in Maçka to the seismograph room. Before moving to Maçka, the observatory operated for some time in a wooden-frame building in Parmakkapı, Beyoğlu. Elim Lacoine, Salih Zeki’s teacher at the Darüşşafaka, and Makridi Bey, who did the meteorological observations also worked here. 

Rioters during the 31 March Event (12 April 1908) destroyed the observatory together with its instruments and seismographs. Instrument parts were later collected and given to Kabataş High Scool to be preserved. There was a telescope of 8 cm. diameter among those parts given to the High School. The Sultan at that time had probably watched the passage of Mercury with this telescope from the Yıldız Palace. 

Kandilli Observatory

Following the suppression of the 31 March riots, on 21 June 1910, Emrullah Efendi, Minister of Education in the new Cabinet, appointed Fatin Hoca (Gökmen) as the director of the new observatory to be founded, on the recommendation of Salih Zeki. Fatin Hoca was a pioneer of studies in astronomy and geophysics in Turkey. His aim was to make the observatory, which had initially been established as a meteorological station, into an institution for astronomy and geophysics. Fatin Gökmen chose the İcadiye Hill behind present Vaniköy as the site of the observatory. At the time, an artillery squad of the Straits Command was located on the hill, as well as a building consisting of a brick tower and two rooms, used by the fire-watchers of the Istanbul Municipality. There was nothing else but stables.

By September 1910, the old tenants had started to leave the place, construction for the present building had started with the 500 gold liras allocated by the Ministry of Education, and Prof. Dr. Angot, Director of the French Meteorological Union, had been contacted and commissioned to purchase the equipment necessary for a first class meteorological station.

Two marine chronometers which survived the destruction of the Rasathane-i Âmire in Maçka during the 31 March riots, an old transit instrument, a small theodolite, and two electrical wall clocks were also given to the new observatory.

As of 1 July 1911, meteorological factors started to be measured and recorded continually and systematically. Daily observations were made on the internationally accepted hours of 7, 14, and 21; recorded, and relevant authorities were informed. Initially, the name of the institution was Rasathane-i Âmire, and the staff consisted of a director, two clerks, and two office boys. Based on observations conducted on the old tower and the two rooms, weather forecasts for Istanbul were prepared each day, and chronometers were adjusted according to observations with the sextant,  whereby PTT (Postal Administration) and DDY (State Railways) were informed of the correct time.

In 1912, a General Air Inspectorate was founded to supply meteorological information in order to arrange movements of the military aircraft of allied Germany, and Serno Bey was appointed as the director. Prof. Hergesel was invited to establish a meteorological network called Rasadati Havaiye for finding out the speed and direction of high air layers and weather forecasts in order to enable flight security for the German fleet. Based on his report, a special department named Feldwettercentrale was founded in the School of Dentistry building right across the Beyazıt Mosque. This department was later transferred to the Caferağa mansion on the hills of Kuruçeşme. Although scientific studies were also conducted in addition to military intelligence, Germans left after the war, and the department was left to its own devices.

In all stations reporting to this department there was a barometer, barograph, thermograph, hydrograph, pluviometer, and anemometer. Readings from military meteorological observations in Eskişehir, Konya, Ankara, Edirne, Gelibolu, İzmir, Seydiköy, Vaniköy (Kandilli Observatory), Zonguldak, Sinop, Sivas, Adana, Beirut, and Jerusalem were also published in Turkish and German, in the journal Memalik-i Osmaniye Askeri Rasad Ahvali Havaiye Mecmuası.The officers to work together with the Germans on these observation points were also trained by Fatin Hoca, director of the Rasathane-i Âmire.

At the end of World War I, the Ministry of Education affiliated the “Tetkikat-ı İlmiye Müfettişliği” (Scientific Analysis Inspectorate) which was established to meet civil demand, to the Rasathane-i Âmire. During that period, in place of the Germans leaving Turkey, occupation forces established meteorological stations in various parts of the country to make observations. The British occupation forces harassed the observatory, burned its building down, and destroyed the surrounding nut pines. Fatin Hoca complained to the command of the occupation forces, and had the troops removed from the observatory.

In 1912, two Leroy chronometers and two sextants were purchased, and the clocks at the observatory were correctly adjusted (with a deviation of 1 second). In 1918, a large equatorial telescope was commissioned to the Carl Zeiss, Jena company to make astronomical observations in addition to meteorological observations. However, this telescope was delivered after the Republic was founded, in 1925. In 1924,  in an interview with the Yıldız magazine, Fatin Hoca said the following about the telescope:

“We have purchased a telescope from Europe, and this costs us twenty-three thousand liras. It has been shipped 15 days ago. We have prepared the project for a building to house this telescope. This building shall cost 35 thousand liras, including three or four rooms and a tower 10 m high. If the money is not paid, the telescope will unfortunately not be available. There are three types of telescopes in observatories: One with a diameter of up to 20 centimeters, another up to 50 centimeters, and the third of up to 110 centimeters. We could only buy the 20-centimeter one. With this telescope we can make physical observations, stars may be photographed, and photometric analyses may be carried out. With this telescope, the Turkish Observatory will join the international network. For example, in Europe they will tell us to look at such and such a star. We shall make our observations and reply by wireless. However, our telescope is very small. Bulgaria already had this telescope 15 years ago.”

Although three rooms were added to the southern side of the meteorology building in 1920 and the garden was walled in, there wasn’t any improvement in general in the observatory until the Republican era.

The meteorology unit of the observatory was the only institution to make observations and forecasts on meteorology in the country until regular observations were started by the General Directorate of Turkish State Meteorological Service in 1929.

The Republican Era

The Rasathane-i Âmire underwent significant transformation in the Republican period, and became what it is today. It preserved its original name at the beginning, then became the “Maarif Vekaleti, Hey'et ve Fiziki Arzi İstanbul Rasathanesi” after the alphabet reform. Called the “Kandilli Observatory” for the first time in 1936, it then became “Kandilli Observatory for Astronomy and Geophysics” in the forties.

Although meteorological observations were carried out for a long time in the observatory, that was not the purpose. With a notification to the government in 1923, it was proposed to found a State Meteorological Network apart from the Kandilli Observatory. When this did not materialize, efforts were directed to establishing an Astronomy and Geophysics complex modeled after the Uccle Observatory in Belgium. In a letter to the Ministry of Education on 11 December 1924, Fatin Gökmen submitted a proposal for the instruments to be used and facilities to be built in order to determine and keep time precisely, as well as recommending establishment of an earthquake and magnetism facility. In the same letter, the oceanography issue was also mentioned for the first time by the Kandilli Observatory. 

Again in the same year, the Ministry of Education Directors Committee has ruled that Kandilli Observatory should be transformed into a general directorate, and affiliated to the Istanbul University. However, Fatin Gökmen  objected to this decision because Kandilli Observatory was an observation center, and recommended the establishment of a separate Observatory Directorate.

The duty of determining lunar months and religious holidays has been assigned to the Kandilli Observatory by the “Law on Changing the Beginning of the Calendar” no. 698, dated 26 December 1925.

Developments in the Kandilli Observatory during the Republican Era

Buildings of the Republican Era:

Ever since 1925, the Republican Government has paved the way for the institution’s development by allocating funds for construction and purchasing of equipment each year. With the budget allocated for the equatorial telescope, which was finally delivered to Istanbul in 1925, foundations of the telescope building were laid in 1926, and the workshop as well as the library buildings were completed. In 1928, walls of the telescope building were erected, and the earthquake building was completed. However, following the allocations and efforts, the installation of the equatorial telescope and inauguration of the telescope building was only possible in 1935.  This building consists of twelve rooms, and is used for continual observation of solar activity and sun spots.

The seismology building, which was started in 1930 and completed in 1934, was built on the slope of the İcadiye Hill overlooking Bebek. This brick building is built on two storeys, and has two departments. The first department is on the front of the building and consists of administrative offices, while the second includes the vault with four rooms and a hall for seismograph devices. There is a ventilator in a small cabin across the building to recycle the air in the vault. Clean air sucked in here is carried by two underground iron pipes of 10-cm diameter to the vault.  These air ducts still survive today. 

The hall and two dark rooms containing the seismographs are built underground as a block. The floors are designed to prevent vibrations. Concrete bent bars under the instruments are built on limestone blocks. These bent bars are surrounded with half-brick walls with a 5-cm gap in between. 5-cm marble slabs are placed on these bent bars, and the seismographs are placed on these slabs. In 1934 this building was completed, seismographs were installed, and recording began. This historical building was re-arranged as a museum in 2006, and the seismographs are displayed in the vault as they were originally placed. 

In 1937, construction for the magnetic adjustment building and the vault to house the variometers began. These were completed in 1938, and recordings began in subsequent years. Construction of the Time Astronomy building which is currently used as the Department of Geodesics began in 1945 and finished in 1946, but the building was inaugurated in 1947. The clocks service was also moved here, and English style time signals started to be broadcast all over Turkey through the Osmaniye Wireless Station.  The Time Astronomy building was also used as the administrative building from 1947 until 1970.

Just like the seismology building, this building on two storeys and with twelve rooms was also built according to special technical specifications. The foundations were laid on concrete columns resting on concrete beams, and the upper story was enabled to operate independently from the vault. There are covered airing vents on the ceiling of each room in the vault. The floors of the clock room housing the pendulum was insulated at the foundation, and covered with a layer of glass. A layer of sand 20 cm thick was laid and pressed on top of this glass layer. Then, concrete blocks of 2.5 cu.m. each were poured on top of this layer, separately from the walls and from each other, and the pendulums were attached to the parts of these blocks that rose from the floor. This way, it was aimed to insulate the instruments from the surrounding vibrations.

Two observation pavilions right next to the building were completed, a Zenith teleskope and later a Danjon astrolab were installed in one; and an Askania transit instrument (meridian) was placed in the other. Today, both these pavilions have lost their functions. The Askania transit instrument is on display at the Kandilli Observatory Museum.

A new tower and building to meet the demand was constructed in place of the old meteorology building which was demolished in 1969, and its garden housing the observation instruments was re-arranged. The same year, Danjon pavilion was completed, and the Danjon astrolab was installed in its place.

Some important instruments purchased for the Kandilli Observatory in 1923-1947:

Determining the correct time was an important function in the observatory.  This was done with a sextant at the beginning, but in order to do it with modern equipment, short- and long-wave receivers and  a prism astrolab were purchased in 1925; a set of small model Wichert seismographs in 1926; and an Ap 90 Askania meridian transit instrument in order to complete the time lab was purchased in 1927. In 1928, Ankara Municipality made a gift of two Mainka seismographs. In 1937, development of the time lab was continued, and a pendulum clock working under constant pressure, as well as instruments to emit Onogo time signals were commissioned. (These clocks are presently displayed in the Kandilli Observatory Museum that was opened in 2006). In the meantime, the building for the Zenith telescope was completed, and the instrument was installed here in 1934.

In 1934 the seismograph building was completed, the seismograph was installed, and regular earthquake observations have started. In 1936, an Askania-Schmidt large magnetic theodolite and Askania variometers were bought. Upon the beginning of the Second World War, no instruments were delivered to the observatory until the war ended.

Scientific Studies in 1923 - 1949:

Ever since it was founded, Kandilli Observatory has carried out meteorological observations and recordings in accordance with international methods. 

In 1924, Fatin Gökmen has applied to the Ministry of Education to establish a magnet laboratory and renewed this application in 1925, but could not receive any reply. Consequently, the  instruments were  purchased directly by savings realized in the observatory budget. The first magnetic readings in the Kandilli Observatory were taken by Fatin Gökmen himself, using the Chasselon-Brunner magnetic theodolite bought from France in 1927, and a clinometer.  These observations were later carried on by O. Necip Sipahioğlu in 1936-1947, and systematic readings began only after 1947.

In 1932, Prof. Dr. Boltz from Germany was invited to Turkey to apply modern methods of astronomy-geophysics to the studies of the Directorate of Cartography; and in cooperation with the observatory, three triangulation points were determined in Balıkesir, Turguteli, and in Talimhane nearby. Fatin Gökmen, in a letter to the Ministry of Education in 1932, mentioned scientific studies on sunspots and their formation, and added that these studies were to be developed. However, no information has survived about these observations. The solar eclipse on 19 June 1936 observed at Uludağ was a study in solar physics. Calculations on the line of the total eclipse were published, and the equatorial telescope was taken to Uludağ to photograph the corona. The results of this observation were published as the first solar report of the observatory. The 1936 Uludağ observation was carried out by the Kandilli Observatory team consisting of Fatin Gökmen, Kemal Erkman, and O. Necip Sipahioğlu.

In order to study the 1938 Kırşehir earthquake, a team visited the region, and the observatory sent specialist teams to all subsequent earthquake sites for in situ studies.  Kandilli Observatory’s first formal report was published in 1934 under the title, “Meteorological and Seismological Observations”.

Observations on sunspots and the corona started in 1947, and observations on the chromosphere started with the Zeiss prism spectroscope in 1949. In 1936, relative gravity acceleration measurements were  done between Istanbul (Kandilli Observatory) – Postdam (the observatory where Einstein worked until 1937). In 1937, magnetic readings were taken at Uşak, Kütahya, Balıkesir, and Manisa. In 1947, the countrywide gravity acceleration base network started to be measured, and readings were taken at seven points with the Sterneck pendulum. These readings were taken by the observatory’s Assistant Director Yakub Elbek. Elbek later repeated these measurements between Padua (Italy) and Istanbul.

The letter titled “Information on the organization and equipment of the observatory”, sent by Fatin Gökmen to the Ministry of National Education in 1927 summarizes the activities at the time as follows:  

“The observatory consists of four scientific departments, one administrative department, and a workshop. The scientific departments are the following:                                                 

I.  Department of Astronomy,

II. Department of Astrophysics,

III. Department of Seismology and Magnetism,

IV. Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Electricity,

V. Administrative Department

VI. Workshop

When Fatin Gökmen, who identified himself with the Kandilli Observatory and adopted his last name accordingly, was the director in the thirties,  he was presented as an integral party of the public’s daily questions, as mentioned in a 1933 article in the famous Yedigün magazine of the day:

“For many people, Fatin Bey is the ruler of constellations and seasons. When they are cold they complain from him, when they are wet they rage at him, when they sweat they become angry at him. On the other hand, all prophesies concerning the future are expected from him. Phones at the observatory never stop ringing. They ask about the rain, the hail, the earthquake.”

Variometers were installed in 1946, and studies on earth magnetism were organized. Following the Second World War, the observatory started purchasing new instruments. In 1948 a quartz clock, the large Berlin Chronograph, a big 18-lamp radio receiver, the Grenet seismograph, and La Coun variometers were ordered. All of these instruments were delivered in 1949; however the quartz clock could not be operated as the crystal was tampered with.  In 1949, three sets of Mainka seismographs were bought, but none of them could be operated.  In 1951 a standard radio receiver; and in 1952, from the revolving budget of the Istanbul University School of Science, a 750-Watt radio transmitter were purchased.

From 1952 onwards, not many equipment were bought. However, although there were no training or teaching staff in the observatory, young staff members used existing resources in the best possible way, and pursued scientific studies and publications. The greatest period of development for the Kandilli Observatory began after 1964, when modern buildings and facilities were completed. 

Studies in the Planning Period

Buildings and facilities completed in the planning period from 1964 until 1980 are the following: Personnel lodgings consisting of four flats and enabling the observatory to function on a 24-hour basis, a modern workshop and building equipped with modern tools to enable repair and renovation of the observatory instruments,  garage, meteorology building and observation towers, Earthquake Research Center, a building to study the movement of the earth’s crust according to tides, the solar physics building and conference hall, the solar physics guest house, the time-astronomy observation lodgings, the Danjon astrolab pavilion,  the “Fatin Hoca Sun Tower” and lab with a height of 15 meters to avoid air currents near the surface, a solar observation lab with a pool to establish a stale atmospheric environment and thus enable clearer pictures of the sun, the radio-astronomy pavilion, the Vaniköy mareograph pavilion, the cafeteria building, the Paleomagnetism lab and electronic-optical instruments lab, and the museum-library building.

Observation and research equipment to be installed during the construction of these buildings have also been supplied and made operational.

In the 1970’s, Kandilli Observatory was organized in accordance with its traditional functions with research, observation, on-the-job training departments, and observation and research stations on astronomy and geology, under the Ministry of National Education. It consists of the following departments and branches:


      Department of Space Sciences:                                                


1-  Solar physics,

2-  Time astronomy,

3-  Radio astronomy (has not been realized),

4-  Optical-electronic instrument manufacturing;


      Department of Geology :


1-  Seismology,

2-  Geomagnetism,

3-  Meteorology.

Currently, there are 105 people working in the observatory. Twenty-six of them are scientists, and others are technicians or administrative personnel.

Until 1947, Kandilli Observatory continued its studies in parallel to the studies of the Istanbul University Institute of Astronomy and Physics.  Relations developed with scientists abroad, labs installed in the observatory, and modern equipment purchased have enabled studies on aspects of solar physics. Particularly after 1962, studies conducted by the observatory have started to be published in foreign scientific journals, and referenced by scientists worldwide.

We can mention the following among these studies: “Erdek Seismo-Tectonics Project” prepared in collaboration of the Kandilli Observatory and the Istanbul University Department of Geophysics, concluded successfully, and published in Japan; the “Project on Seismicity Etudes in Balkan Countries” started in 1970 and supported by UNESCO (five fixed stations in Western Anatolia planned within this project have been completed in 1973); the CINOF and PROTON projects participated by the Kandilli Observatory Department of Solar Physics and supported by the International Astronomical Union; the MARNET project developed between Kandilli-British Geological Survey to record seismic activities in the Marmara Sea and its region.

Since 1982...

Until 1982 Kandilli Observatory continued its operations as affiliated to the Ministry of National Education Directorate of Higher Education. With a law decree no 41, enacted under Law no. 2809 dated 28.03.1983, it has been converted into an institute named “Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute”, affiliated to the Boğaziçi University.

Current organization of the Institute is as follows:

ACADEMIC UNITS: Department of Geodesics, Department of Earthquake Engineering,

Department of Geophysics and the Magnetics Lab.

CENTERS: Regional Earthquake-Tsunami Monitoring Center (RETMC), Belbaşı Nuclear Trials                                                                                                         Center (NDİM), İznik Center for Reducing Earthquake Damages.

LABORATORIES: Astronomy Lab and Meteorology Lab.

Furthermore, there is a Disaster Preparedness Education Unit affiliated to the Institute.

Earthquake studies were the primary objective of the institute, and have been integrated with postgraduate and doctorate studies in Earthquake Engineering, Geodesics, and Geophysics departments. Thus, Kandilli has become the first institution ever to combine education, research, and implementation activities within its organization.

Within this context, National Earthquake Monitoring Center has established new earthquake stations in many regions of the country, and Turkey has continually developed its earthquake network.  Continuous information flow from this network to Kandilli makes it possible to determine the location and magnitude of an earthquake anywhere in the country, and relevant authorities are informed. Currently, the number of fixed earthquake centers with satellite lines, phone lines, Internet, network, leased lines and sublines is 122. There are further 3 stations operated in Cyprus.

Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Center is, at the same time, an institution that supervises nuclear explosions with international cooperation, and is a National Data Center in this subject. It operates short and long-term arrays for this purpose, sends the data collected to International Data Centers,  determines nuclear explosions and tries out new methods, and establishes required infrastructure.

In 2002, the Istanbul Earthquake Urgent Intervention and Early Warning System has been set up within the Department of Earthquake Engineering, in accordance with a decision of the Cabinet. It shall become possible to produce early warning signals immediately before the earthquake through 110 strong earthquake stations, and to determine those buildings in Istanbul that are damaged right afterwards. There are 60 strong earth movement networks operated at the  Fatih Sultan Mehmet suspension bridge, Ayasofya Museum, Süleymaniye Mosque, Fatih Mosque, and various other high-rise buildings and industrial facilities; and a further 40 recorders are kept for experimental studies and periodical tests.

In the Shake Table Lab within the Earthquake Engineering Department, there are 3x3 single-axis, and 1x1 three-axis shake tables, accelerometers and deplacement meters. TSE and other reference tests on vibration are carried out here. 

Current Work

Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI) Regional Earthquake and Tsunami Monitoring Center (RETMC)

RETMC currently is capable of  real-time analysis of  seismic data  and delivering earthquake parameters and tsunami early warning information in a healthy and quick way to all disaster related organizations. RETMC primarily focuses on the development and modernization of the  seismic network, collection and archive of  waveform data, preparation of  earthquake catalogue and cooperation with national and international institutions on earthquake and tsunami research.  

In this context, RETMC has been continuously installing new seismic stations all around Turkey and improving the seismic network. Earthquakes occurring in any part of Turkey are located and the magnitude is calculated in near-real time using the data received from this network.  Currently, the network comprises total numbers of seismic  stations are 238 stations connected to RETMC via satellite, GPRS, or internet connected. Five of these stations are located in  Northern Cyprus.

The Graduate Program in Earthquake Engineering (GPEE) of KOERI

The Graduate Program in Earthquake Engineering (GPEE) of KOERI was officially established in 1989 as a graduate school in Earthquake Engineering. The graduate program is the only academic unit in Turkey that offers formal M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Earthquake Engineering.  The curriculum includes classes on a wide range of subjects related to earthquake engineering, including  structural response, seismic design, base isolation, structural monitoring and data analysis, system identification, seismic hazard and risk assessment, soil response and liquefaction, seismic microzonation, experimental methods, field testing, random vibrations, simulation of strong ground motions, wave propagation, and earthquake physics. 

The seismic instrumentation laboratory consists of portable instruments for aftershock monitoring,  calibration  and  repair  facilities  for  seismic  instruments,  hardware  and software  for  data  acquisition  and  processing,  and  three  electronic  technicians.  The laboratory had designed and deployed the Istanbul Earthquake Rapid Response and Early Warning System, and is responsible for its operation.

The Rapid Response System consists of 100+ free-field accelerographs, stationed in the metropolitan area of Istanbul and operating in real-time mode for instantaneous developments of shaking and damage maps after an earthquake. The Early Warning System consists of 15 strong-motion sensors, installed at locations closest to the Marmara fault zone and operating in real time for early warning of incoming seismic waves. The laboratory has also installed Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems on a large number of structures, including historical structures, tall buildings, and lifeline systems,  and  is  responsible  for  the  maintenance  and  operation  of  these systems.

Department of Earthquake Engineering has three shake table facilities A uniaxial horizontal vibration shake table is driven by a servo-hydraulic actuator. The table is capable of carrying a maximum 10-ton payload on the 3 m x 3 m table, and is capable of shaking a 10 ton payload with 2 g acceleration. It is used for seismic researches and qualification testing of equipments, structural components and scale models. dThe second shake table is a servo electric tri-axial table with dimensions of 0.7m by 0.7m. It is capable of producing three-dimensional independent motion in two horizontal and vertical directions. The third shake table is essentially used for calibration and small-scale demonstration purposes. It is an electromagnetic shaker with a testing capacity up to 23 kg and provides one-dimensional shaking.

Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Mitigation in The Marmara Region and Disaster Education Project in Turkey- MarDiM project 

The long-term observation of the sea floor in the Marmara Sea revealed the different features of the fault parts. Bogazici University Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI),  Earthquake  and Tsunami Disaster Mitigation in the Marmara Region and Disaster Education in Turkey  Project (MarDiM) work has resulted.

With the seismometer, magnetometer and extensometer devices placed in the Marmara seafloor, the faults in Marmara were continuously monitored very precisely and throughout the project.

Thus, the micro earthquakes in the magnitude of about M> 0.2 have been observed from the sea bottom  stations established in Marmara Fault. Within the scope of the project, sea and land seismic observations have been carried out in the Marmara region since 2013, and the periods of recurrence of the earthquakes along the segments of the North Anatolian Fault Zone in the Marmara region have been examined.

These observations will continue in different areas of the Sea of Marmara in the coming years, despite the completion of the project. The micro-earthquake activity of the fault within the Marmara Sea, observations of the expansion and shortening of the fault were measured and reported every day for 5 years.

MarDiM the longest-term project in this area was performed for the first time in Turkey Sea of Marmara Earthquake and Tsunami Map is being extracted; As a first again, 'Tsunami Early Warning System Model' was developed, updated and tsunami disaster education program booklet was prepared for the first time in Turkey.

KOERI Regional Earthquake and Tsunami Monitoring Center

KOERI’s Regional Earthquake and Tsunami Monitoring Center (RETMC) is the 24/7 operational National Tsunami Warning Centre for Turkey under the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (ICG/NEAMTWS) initiative. KOERI officially declared its Interim Candidate Tsunami Service Provider Status covering Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black Seas as of 1 July 2012 to the ICG/NEAMTWS Secretariat in June 2012 and was accredited as Tsunami Service Provider (TSP) during the 13th session of ICG/NEAMTWS held in Bucharest-Romania on 26-28 September 2016. As an accredited TSP, KOERI monitors all earthquake activity within its service area and issues tsunami information and early warning messages to its subscribers for earthquakes above M > 5.5. Real-time data transmission from 6 primary and 10 auxiliary stations from the International Monitoring System is in place for Tsunami early warning purposes based on an agreement concluded with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in 2011.

At the national level, 7 out of 19 tide-gauge stations operated by the General Command of Mapping (GCM) are integrated in the TSP operations, where 3 of such stations in Sinop, İskenderun and Marmara Ereğlisi have been upgraded to radar type of sensor from acoustic sensor. Integration of the whole GCM network to KOERI-RETMC is awaiting progress in GCM’s plans to upgrade whole network with radar type tide-gauges. Two IDSL stations donated by EC-JRC have been installed in Fethiye in southwest Turkey and Bozcaada in the Northern Aegean and work is in progress for the installation of two additional devices in Bodrum in southwest Turkey and Samsun in Black Sea. Duty officers of the RETMC continued to perform internal tests of the Tsunami Warning System on a daily basis based, both using TsuComp and TAT, on pre-determined set of scenarios. In addition, KOERI continued to perform Communication Test Exercise with AFAD (Turkish CPA) and its subscribers on every Monday and Tuesday of every first full week of each month, respectively.

KOERI’s Experience in ICG/NEAMTWS Tsunami Exercises

KOERI has also successfully participated in NEAMWave12, the first Tsunami Exercise in NEAM region, as a Candidate Tsunami Service Provider with a scenario based on Mw=8.4 worst-case interpretation of the 8 August 1303 Crete and Dodecanese Islands earthquake resulting in destructive inundation in the Eastern Mediterranean. In NEAMWave 14, as the second Tsunami Exercise in NEAM, KOERI acted as the Message Provider for a Black Sea Scenario, where Black Sea was covered for the first time in a NEAMTWS Tsunami Exercise. KOERI scenario for the NEAMWave17, the third tsunami exercise of NEAMTWS, was conducted on 1 November 2017, based on a Mw 7.4 inland earthquake in Hatay Province of Turkey, that would trigger a submarine landslide generating a tsunami which would mainly impact Iskenderun Bay, but also leading to tsunami impact in Latakia, and observations in southern Turkey, Levantine coast and Cyprus. The main aim was to simulate a multi-hazard natural disaster in a region where there is an on-going humanitarian crisis to allow Disaster and Emergency Management Authorities to consider respective actions.

KOERI-Belbaşı Nuclear Tests Monitoring Center 

KOERI is the national executive authority on technical matters regarding CTBT by the Republic of Turkey within the framework of the law entitled “the approval of Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (issue date: 3 October 1999 and number 4462)” and the law entitled “the approval of the agreement between republic of Turkey and United States of America regarding the closure of Belbasi facility and the establishment of a new seismic research station (issue date: 25 December 2003 and number: 5031)”. Pursuant to this agreement, KOERI has been agreed to act as the National Data Center (NDC) and hence established the Belbasi Nuclear Tests Monitoring Center (NTMC). In compliance with the norms implemented by CTBTO, NTMC is responsible for; simultaneously transmitting the signals to CTBTO – IDC, KOERI-Istanbul and to other related centers, participate in technical CTBTO meetings and carry out relevant strategic, technical and scientific operations, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Disaster Preparedness Education Unit

It is very important for community-directed earthquake education programs to be ongoing and sustainable. For this reason, Disaster Preparedness Education Unit (DPEU) was founded on 19 October 2004 to bring together the existing education programs created under DPEU with new and developing projects, and provide them with an institutional identity. The decision to create DPEU was made by the Board of Directors of KOERI with the agreement of the Board of Directors of Bogazici University.

The goal of the project is to contribute to the efforts to prepare Istanbul for the likelihood of a damaging earthquake. It seeks to improve public disaster awareness, local preparedness, and first response organization and skills in order to decrease the loss of life and property in the event of such an earthquake.

In pursuit of this aim, four main education programs were established:

· Basic Disaster Awareness

· Non-Structural Mitigation

· Structural Awareness for Earthquakes

· Community Disaster Volunteer and Public Disaster Preparedness Program

Certified Education Programs

DPEU’s education programs, which are developed with the participation of BU-KOERI faculty members, community experts, and practitioners, have been adopted by existing public institutions, civil society organizations, volunteers in assorted initiative groups, and educators responsible for disaster preparedness, in order to ensure their standardization, continuity, and long-term development.

· Education of Educator (Establishment/Individuals)

· Education of Basic Disaster Awareness

· Education of Non-Structural Danger Mitigation

· Education of Structural Awareness for Earthquakes

Earthquake Park

DPEU’s activities include the management of the Earthquake Park, an educational center created at KOERI. On specific weekdays, groups of primary school students visit Earthquake Park to learn about earthquakes and undergo training designed to raise their awareness teach them what to do before, during, and after an earthquake occurs. (It has reached 41.708 participants between 2003-2017)

Mobile Earthquake Simulation Training Truck

Mobile Earthquake Simulation Training Truck was developed in 2007, aiming to create a stage for community awareness for the earthquake preparedness and to change the common wrong perception and ignorance on earthquakes also aiming to be a model-project for other cities in Turkey and countries which has the same risks.  On a simulation in truck, participants have the opportunity to live the earthquake moment and learn correct ways of behave during the incident.

(Up to date, it has travelled 175 cities and reached 216.000 participants.)