John Freely

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John Freely
Born 26 June 1926
Brooklyn, New York
Died 20 April 2017
Nationality American
Education New York University
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions Boğaziçi University

John Freely (26 June 1926 – 20 April 2017[1]) was an American physicist, teacher, and author of popular travel and history books on Istanbul, Athens, Venice, Turkey, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire. He was the father of writer and Turko English literary translator Maureen Freely.[2]


Freely was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up there and in Ireland,[3] he dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 for the last two years of World War II, serving with a commando unit in Burma and China. He did his undergraduate work at the traditional American Catholic college, Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, under the G.I. Bill.[4]

Academic life[edit]

Freely received his PhD in physics at New York University, and later pursued his postdoctoral studies at Oxford University under Alistair Cameron Crombie, the pioneering researcher in the history of Medieval European science. The principal idea he inherited from Crombie was "the continuity of western European science from the Dark Ages through Copernicus, Galileo and Newton". Following his postdoctoral work, he taught courses in history and astronomy at the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey, including the course, "The Emergence of Modern Science, East and West".[5]

Since 1960 he has taught physics and the history of science at Boğaziçi University (formerly Robert College) in Istanbul, with sojourns in New York City, Boston, London, Athens, Oxford, and Venice. He returned to Boğaziçi University in 1993, he is the author of over 40 books.


Travel guides:

History and science books:

  • Stamboul Sketches (1974; reprinted by Eland in 2014)
  • Istanbul: The Imperial City (1996)
  • A History of Robert College: The American College for Girls and Boğaziçi University (2000), YKY,Two volumes
  • Sinan: Architect of Suleyman the Magnificent and the Ottoman Golden Age (1992), with Augusto Romano Burelli, Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • Inside the Seraglio: Private Lives of the Sultans in Istanbul (1999)
  • The Lost Messiah: In Search of the Mystical Rabbi Sabbatai Sevi (2001)
  • Jem Sultan: The Adventures of a Captive Turkish Prince in Renaissance Europe (2004); Harpercollins
  • The Emergence of Modern Science, East and West (2004), Istanbul: Boğaziçi University
  • Byzantine Monuments of Istanbul (2004), with Ahmet S. Çakmak; Cambridge University Press
  • John Freely's Istanbul (2003, ill. ed. 2006), Scala Publishers
  • Storm on Horseback: The Seljuk Warriors of Turkey (2008); I B Tauris & Co Ltd
  • Children of Achilles: The Greeks in Asia Minor Since the Days of Troy (2009); I B Tauris & Co Ltd
  • The Grand Turk: Sultan Mehmet II: Conqueror of Constantinople and Master of an Empire (2009); Tauris Parke Paperbacks
  • Aladdin's Lamp: How Greek Science Came to Europe Through the Islamic World (2009)
  • Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)
  • The Flame of Miletus: The Birth of Science in Ancient Greece (and How it Changed the World) (2012); I B Tauris & Co Ltd
  • Light from the East: How the Science of Medieval Islam helped to shape the Western World (2010); I B Tauris & Co Ltd

Wrote foreword:

  • Runciman, Steven, The Lost Capital of Byzantium: The History of Mistra and the Peloponnese (2009 reprint), Tauris Parke Paperbacks
  • Stafford-Deitsch, Jeremy, Kingdoms of Ruin: The Art and Architectural Splendours of Ancient Turkey (2009)
  • Bradford, Ernle, The Sultan's Admiral: Barbarossa - Pirate and Empire-Builder (2009), Tauris Parke Paperbacks


  1. ^ "Yazar John Freely yaşamını yitirdi". Cumhuriyet. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 
  2. ^ Jason Goodwin (n.d.). "Enlightenment (book review)". Washington Post Book World. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ John Freely, Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)