The decline of the Ottoman Empire, which began with the defeat of Vienna in 1683, brought forth the idea of establishing a new army in the 19th century. As a result of the concept to train physicians equipped according to the requirements of the time, which would minimize casualties to meet the needs of the new army, Sultan Mahmud II assigned this task to Chief Physician Mustafa Behçet Efendi.
The New Medical School, named Tıphane-i Amire, was established on March 14, 1827, in a mansion in Istanbul’s Beyazıt Square. Later, the school, located where Galatasaray High School is now, was rearranged according to new needs and renamed as Mektebi Tıbbıye-i Adliye-i Şahane. A botanical garden, which would be utilized in pharmaceutical production under the leadership of Dr. Bernard brought from France for education, was established. Additionally, a printing press was set up for the printing of textbooks, and there were also natural history, anatomy, and pathology museums, as well as physics and chemistry laboratories.
Unfortunately, the school, which housed one of the best libraries of its time and provided valuable services, was reduced to ashes in a fire in 1848. The six-year school, where the language of instruction was French, had Sultan Mahmud II explain the use of French in education in his opening speech as follows: “My aim in teaching you French is not to teach French but to gradually introduce medical sciences into our language. Strive to learn medical sciences from your instructors and translate them into Turkish.”
However, only 6-7 students graduated from the school each year, and most of them were minorities. Therefore, in 1860, Mektebi Tıbbıye-i Mülkiye, providing education in Turkish, was moved to a separate building in Kadırga to establish a civil medical school. Within 13 years, 62 Turkish books were printed, and medical dictionaries and journals were published. The number of graduates increased rapidly, reversing the ratio. Pharmacy, dentistry, chemistry, and physical medicine developed within medical faculties and eventually became independent faculties.
In March 1919, Tıbbiye was occupied by British forces. In an effort to resist the occupation and save the school, a large demonstration was organized on March 14, led by third-year student Hikmet Boran (the father of Orhan Boran). The Turkish flag was hoisted between the two towers of the school. This symbolic event later turned into an annual event, including the entire week, discussing the country’s health issues.
After overcoming numerous challenges, the Empire’s first modern medical school continued its service as the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine during the Republic era. This was followed by the opening of Ankara Faculty of Medicine in 1945. Thousands of intellectuals trained in medicine contributed significantly to the country’s struggle for freedom. Today, we pay our respects to all individuals who have contributed to the development of this branch of science, which is now the most advanced and up-to-date in our country.
The Story of Medicine and a Medical Doctor from the Empire to the Republic. The life of Osman Cevdet Çubukçu. Nadire Berker-Selim Yalçın. Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Publications, 2010.