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Title: Ahmed Hilmi Pasha (1839–1905): A remarkable Ottoman physician and medical translator

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J Med Biogr OnlineFirst, published on September 15, 2016 as doi:10.1177/0967772016665569

Original Article

Ahmed Hilmi Pasha (1839–1905):
A remarkable Ottoman physician
and medical translator

Journal of Medical Biography
0(0) 1–5
! The Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0967772016665569
jmb.sagepub.com

Halil Tekiner

Abstract
Besides being a founding member of the Ottoman Medical Society (est. 1867) and general director of the Imperial
Military and Civil medical schools in Istanbul, Dr Ahmed Hilmi Pasha offered a pathology course for the first time in the
Ottoman Empire. He also translated various medical textbooks from French, and he paved the way for using Turkish in
Ottoman medical education.

Keywords
Medical translation, military physicians, Ottoman Empire, pathology, Turkey

Biography
Ahmed Hilmi was born in 1839 in the small village of
Darsiyak (modern-day Kayabag), located in the central
province of Kayseri, Turkey.1 His father was the stonemason Mehmed Chavush. At the age of 12, Ahmed
Hilmi came to Istanbul because of his father’s work
there. Thanks to the personal efforts of a local benevolent, he was registered at the Mekteb-i Irfaniye, a
famous middle school of his time, established to provide modern and secular education for the country’s
future bureaucrats.2
In his third year at school, while officials of the
Mekteb-i Tibbiye-i Sahane (Imperial Military Medical
School) were looking for successful student candidates
with good language skills to admit to their school,
Kazasker Cemal Efendi noticed the young boy’s aptitude on a routine exam. Ahmed Hilmi was thus
admitted to the Imperial Military Medical School.
There he proved himself as a brilliant student and
perfected his French in the meantime.3
Following his graduation as a senior lieutenant in
1864, Ahmed Hilmi initially worked at the Haydar
Pasha Military Hospital in Istanbul, and then moved
to Damascus to serve as a military physician for the
Fifth Army for nearly four years.4 In 1870, it was
decided that the official language of the medical education provided at the Imperial Military Medical School
would be Turkish instead of French, which had been
the language of education since the school’s founding

in 1839.5 Considering his proficiency in French, Ahmed
Hilmi was recalled to Istanbul.1 Soon after his arrival,
he was appointed as an assistant professor of internal
medicine at the Imperial Military Medical School and
as an assistant professor of chemistry at the Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Mulkiye-i Sahane (Imperial Civil Medical
School).6
Apart from his teaching tenure, Ahmed Hilmi was
further assigned to translate medical textbooks from
French and to publish them for future medical students
to use.3 He immediately began to work on translating
books that were in demand, and he published his first
translation on surgical operations in 1872.6 This work
brought him the order of the Mecidiye (fourth rank) by
the Sultan’s decree.7 In November 1876, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel as well.8
In the following years, he continued to give general
chemistry courses at the Imperial Civil Medical
School as a professor.9,10 In 1877, he began to give
pathology courses at the Imperial Military Medical
School.11,12 Then, in December 1880, he was appointed
as a professor of inorganic chemistry.13 A year later,
The Gevher Nesibe Institute of the History of Medicine, Erciyes
University, Kayseri, Turkey
Corresponding author:
Halil Tekiner, The Gevher Nesibe Institute of the History of Medicine,
Erciyes University, Kayseri 38039, Turkey.
Email: htekiner@erciyes.edu.tr

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2

Journal of Medical Biography 0(0)

he was awarded with the Order of Osmaniye (third
rank) due to his success in the translation of
Professor Theodor Billroth’s book on general surgical
pathology.14 In July 1883, he was promoted to
colonel.15
Through the mid-1880s, Ahmed Hilmi became a
chief inspector of the Health Directorate in addition
to his ongoing teaching responsibilities.16 In 1888, he
was appointed to the Ders Naziri (director of education) position at the Imperial Military Medical
School, and he was promoted to brigadier general in
the same year.11 In 1893, he was appointed as the
Mekteb Naziri (general director) of both the Imperial
Military and Civil medical schools and continued this
task for nearly two years.17
Considering his long-term achievements in the field
of medicine, he was promoted to lieutenant general in
1895, and he was appointed as the vice-head of the
Health Directorate of the General Staff in November
of the same year (Figure 1).2,18 While at this post, he
died on 29 May 1905 in Istanbul and was laid to rest in
the cemetery of Mahmud Baba Turbe in the Kadikoy
district.11 Married to Meserret Hanim, who had an
Egyptian origin, and with one daughter, he was
known as a knowledgeable, hard-working scholar,
and a good-mannered person.3,19

Figure 1. Dr Ahmed Hilmi Pasha in late 1890s (Courtesy of the
Istanbul University Library, Photo Album 91059/12).

His contributions to Ottoman medicine
Ahmed Hilmi greatly contributed to the Ottoman
medicine as a lecturer, medical translator, and founding
member of Cemiyet-i Tibbiye-i Osmaniye (The Ottoman
Medical Society).
He gave internal medicine, general chemistry, and
inorganic chemistry courses for many years at both
the Imperial Military and Civil medical schools, but
more importantly, he pioneered pathology training in
the Ottoman Empire by offering a related course for the
first time in the country.20 In addition to fulfilling his
duty of lecturing, he was a prolific medical translator.
Considering the huge lack of medical references in
Turkish, he particularly focused on translating various
medical textbooks on pathology, chemistry, and obstetrics (Figure 2).21 His continuous efforts through the
following 15 years culminated with about 6000 pages

Figure 2. Cover page of the first textbook of histopathology in
Turkish, entitled Ilm-i Ensac-i Maraziye (1886), which was translated by Dr Ahmed Hilmi Pasha (Courtesy of the National
Library of Turkey, Ankara).

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Tekiner

3

Table 1. Medical textbooks translated or written by Dr Ahmed Hilmi Pasha.
Year

Title in Turkish

Original title

Author

Other details

1872

Ameliyat-i Cerrahiye
(Surgical Operations)

Manuel de Me´decine Ope´ratoire
(ed. 1861 was used)

1879

Emraz-i Umumiye-i
Cerrahiye (General
Surgical Pathology)
Kimya-yi Madeni
(Inorganic Chemistry)

Allgemeine chirurgische Pathologie
und Therapie (French ed. 1868
was used)
The book was originally written
in Turkish as a textbook
without references.
Kompendium der Geburtshilfe
(French ed. 1859 was used)

Joseph-Franc¸ois
Malgaigne
(1806–1865)
Theodor Billroth
(1829–1894)

Istanbul: Matbaa-i Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Sahane, 2 vol,
24 þ 719 p, 28 þ 856 þ 1 p
Istanbul: Matbaa-i Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Sahane,
1 vol, 2 þ 1216 p
Istanbul: Matbaa-i Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Mulkiye,
1 vol, 443 p
Istanbul: Matbaa-i Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Sahane, 1 vol,
5 þ 481 p
Istanbul: Mekteb-i Tibbiye-i
Mulkiye Matbaasi, 1 vol,
24 þ 399 p

1879

1880

Fenn-i Viladea (The
Science of Obstetrics)

1881

Tahlil-i Kimyevi: Keyfi ve
Kemmi (Qualitative
and Quantitative
Chemical Analysis)
Kimya-yi Madeni
(second edition)
(Inorganic Chemistry)
Ilm-i Ensac-i Maraziye
(Histopathology)

1883

1886

Ahmed Hilmi
(1839–1905)
Friedrich Scanzoni
(1821–1891)

Traite´ Pratique d’Analyse Chimique,
Qualitative et Quantitative (ed.
1880 was used)

Fe´lix Pisanib
(1831–1920)

The book was originally written
in Turkish as a text book
without references.
Lehrbuch der pathologischen
Gewebelehre (French ed. 1873
was used)

Ahmed Hilmi
(1839–1905)

Istanbul: Mihran Matbaasi,
1 vol, 399 þ 1 p

Eduard von Rindfleisch
(1836–1908)

Istanbul: Mekteb-i Tibbiye-i
Sahane Matbaasi, 1 vol,
6 þ 10 þ 5 þ 4 þ 1341 p

a

Translated jointly by Ibrahim Lutfu, Huseyin Remzi, Nafiz Sureyya, and Ahmed Hilmi.
The name was mistakenly written as Fre´de´ric Pisani on the cover page of the translation book.

b

of works published in seven books in eight volumes
(Table 1). These books paved the way for using
Turkish in Ottoman medical education.
It is especially noteworthy that Ahmed Hilmi was a
founding member of the Ottoman Medical Society,
founded on 3 March 1867.1,22 According to its statutes,
the main functions of the society would be to translate
European medical books and publish an independent
medical journal to publicize medical advancements.23
Ahmed Hilmi became the secretary general of the society in 1876 and served as vice president four times
between 1883 and 1893.11
In fact, together with many of his friends from the
Imperial Military Medical School, including Dr Huseyin
Remzi (1839–1896), Dr Aziz of Crimea (1840–1878),
and Dr Huseyin Sabri (1843–1898), who were also members of the same society, Ahmed Hilmi was an ardent
advocate of using Turkish in medical education.24 He
and his friends believed that this would not only help to
remove the language obstacle for Turkish medical students and make medical subjects easier to understand
but also it would facilitate the spread of medical knowledge among the public.25 For this reason, Ahmed Hilmi
took part in an ad hoc committee to publish the first
modern medical dictionary in Turkish to provide
Turkish equivalents for French medical terms.

The committee decided to work on the dictionary
that French physiologist Pierre-Hubert Nysten (1771–
1818) had compiled.26 After some long discussions on
each entry and three years of work, the dictionary came
into being under the title of Lugat-i Tibbiye (Medical
Dictionary) in 1873.24,27 This dictionary served as a
foundation for future medical translations to Turkish
for more than two decades. A report dated June 1881,
written by the evaluation committee of one of Ahmed
Hilmi’s translation books, also proves that the terminology he used in his translations was in accordance
with the Turkish medical terms assigned in this
dictionary.28

Conclusion
After falling into oblivion for about a hundred years,
Ahmed Hilmi deserves to be remembered as an outstanding figure greatly contributing to enrich Turkish
medical literature. His successful efforts, accompanied
by hard work, perseverance, and determination, not
only marked his time but also his own life, which
spanned from that of the deprived boy of a stonemason
father to that of a distinguished man and the general
director of the Imperial Military and Civil medical
schools.

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4

Journal of Medical Biography 0(0)

Acknowledgement
The author gratefully acknowledges Messrs. Sezai Tokyay,
Mustafa Tuncer, and Ustun Tuncer, the fourth-generation
descendants of Ahmed Hilmi, for kindly giving permission
to use their personal archives. The author also thanks Dr
Seref Etker for critically proofreading the manuscript. This
article is dedicated to Professor Emre Dolen on the occasion
of his 70th birthday.

13.
14.
15.
16.

Declaration of conflicting interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
article.

17.

18.

Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.

19.

References and notes
1. Bursali MT. Osmanli Muellifleri [Ottoman authors]. 3rd
vol. Istanbul: Matbaa-i Amire, 1333 H [1915 AD], p.209.
2. Pakalin MZ. Ahmet Pasa. In: Batmaz S (ed.) Sicill-i
Osmani Zeyli [Appendix to the Ottoman employment records]. 2nd vol, Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 2008,
pp.109–110.
3. Anonymous. Resimlerimiz [Our images]. Servet-i Funun
1905; 29: 188–189.
4. Gencer RT. Mirat-i Mekteb-i Tibbiye [History of the
Medical School]. 1st vol. Dersaadet: Kader Matbaasi,
1328 H [1912 AD], p.185.
5. Hatemi H and Isil Y. Bir Bilim Dili Mucadelesi ve
Tanzimat [A struggle for the language of science and the
Tanzimat (reorganization)]. Istanbul: Isaret Yayinlari,
1989, p.21.
6. Malgaigne JF. Ameliyat-i Cerrahiye [Surgical operations]. 1st vol. Hilmi A (trans). Istanbul: Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Sahane Matbaasi, 1289 H [1872 AD].
7. The Ottoman Archives of the Prime Minister’s Office
(OAPMO). I.DH 695/48645. 30 kanun-i evvel 1290 H
[11 January 1875 AD].
8. OAPMO. I.DH 737/60335. 2 tesrin-i sani 1292 H
[14 November 1876 AD].
9. Hilmi A. Kimya-yi Madeni [Inorganic chemistry]. 2nd ed.
Istanbul: Mihran Matbaasi, 1300 H [1883 AD].
10. Ihsanoglu E, Sesen R, Bekar MS, et al. Ahmed Hilmi
Pasa. In: Ihsanoglu E (ed.) Osmanli Tibbi Bilimler
Literaturu Tarihi [History of the literature of Medical
Sciences during the Ottoman Period]. 2nd vol, Istanbul:
IRCICA Yayinlari, 2008, pp.699–702.
11. Sehsuvaroglu BN. Patolojik Anatomi Hocalari [Teachers
of pathological anatomy]. Istanbul: Tip ve Eczacilik
Nesriyati, 1966, pp.8–9.
12. Sehsuvaroglu BN, Erdemir-Demirhan A and CantayGuressever G. Patolojik anatomi ogretimi [Pathological
anatomy training]. In: Turk Tip Tarihi [History

20.
21.

22.
23.

24.
25.

26.

27.

28.

of Turkish Medicine]. Bursa: Tas Kitapcilik, 1984,
pp.220–221.
OAPMO. MF.MKT 66/93. 25 muharrem 1298 H [28
December 1880 AD].
OAPMO. I.DH 833/67062. 18 temmuz 1297 R [30 July
1881 AD].
OAPMO. I.DH 890/70838. 14 temmuz 1299 R [26 July
1883 AD].
Rindfleisch
EV.
Ilm-i
Ensac-i
Maraziye
[Histopathology]. Hilmi A (trans). Istanbul: Mekteb-i
Tibbiye-i Sahane Matbaasi, 1303 H [1886 AD].
Yildirim N. Istanbul Tip Fakultesi Tarihine Bakis [A
glance at the history of Istanbul Medical Faculty].
Istanbul: publisher uncited, 2015, p.34.
Akalin BO. Nevsal-i Afiyet [Year book of health]. 2nd
vol. Istanbul: Alem Matbaasi, 1316 H [1900 AD],
pp.120–122.
OAPMO. ZB 346/119, 17 subat 1322 [2 March 1907 AD].
Cited in: Ilikan CG. Osmanli Devleti’nde saglik mesleklerinde diploma mecburiyeti [Diploma obligation for
health professionals in the Ottoman State]. Toplumsal
Tarih 2010; 84: 80–84.
Paksoy N. The history of pathology in Turkey.
Pathology - Research and Practice 1988; 184: 128–131.
Our recent survey about Ahmed Hilmi’s short articles
appeared in the Turkish medical press, resulting in a
sole example that was published in three consecutive
issues of the first medical journal of the Ottoman
Empire. See: Hilmi A. Fenn-i kimyanin hifzissihhat ve
tagsisata olan cihet-i taalukatdan olmak uzere tababette
kesru’l istimal olan sarabin terkib ve tahlil ve tahsisi hakkinda 24, 25, 26 numerolu Malumat-i Tibbiye ve
Ispenciyariye nam jurnalde gorulen bir bendin tercemesidir. Vakayi-yi Tibbiye [Medical News] 1297 H [1880
AD]; 18: 2–6; 19: 2–4; 20: 2–5.
This society has continued to the present and is known as
the Turkiye Tip Akademisi (Medical Academy of Turkey).
Anonymous. Cemiyet-i Tibbiye-i Osmaniye Nizamnamesi
[Regulations of the Ottoman Medical Society]. Istanbul:
Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Sahane Matbaasi, 1921, p.3.
Uludag OS. Tanzimat ve Hekimlik [The Tanzimat and
Medicine]. Istanbul: Maarif Matbaasi, 1940, pp.5–7.
Sari N. Cemiyet-i Tıbbiye-i Osmaniyye ve tıp dilinin
Turkcelesmesi akimi [The Ottoman Medical Society and
the movement to promote medical Turkish]. In: Osmanli
Ilmi ve Mesleki Cemiyetleri - 1. Milli Turk Bilim
Tarihi Sempozyumu. Istanbul: ITSKAM, 1987, pp.121–
142.
Nysten PH. Dictionnaire de me´decine, de chirurgie, de
pharmacie, des sciences accessoires et de l’art ve´te´rinaire,
5e e´d. Paris: J.S. Chaude´, 1833.
Anonymous. Lugat-i Tibbiye [Medical dictionary].
Istanbul: Mekteb-i Tibbiye-i Sahane Matbaasi, 2 rabi
al-ahir 1290 [30 May 1873 AD].
OAPMO. I.DH 846/67931. 23 mayis 1297 [4 June
1881 AD].

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Tekiner

5

Author biography
Halil Tekiner was born in 1983 in Kayseri, Turkey, and holds a BSc in pharmacy and an MSc and PhD in the
history of pharmacy and pharmacy management, all from Ankara University. Having conducted postdoc studies
at Harvard Medical School, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marburg-Philipps University, he is currently an assistant professor at Erciyes University, Turkey, and the vice-president of the International Society for
the History of Pharmacy (ISHP). He has authored, co-authored or edited 12 books and has published numerous
articles in medical history, the medical humanities and ethics.

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