Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi
Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi (1609-1640), an inhabitant of Istanbul in the 17th century Ottoman Empire is credited with the first appropriate flight with artificial wings in the history of aviation. The event took place in the year 1638 during the tenure of Sultan Murad IV. Hezarfen took off from the 183-foot tall Galata Tower near Bosporus and landed successfully at Uskudar, on the other side. This was before Wright Brothers invented the first plane, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi had already succeeded to fly over Bosphorus, from Galata Tower to Üsküdar.
This feat was 200 years ahead of its time. Evliya Celebi, historian and chronicler and an eyewitness, recorded vividly in his Seyahatname (a book of travel), the jubilation that followed. Sultan Murad IV was inordinately pleased. Hezarfen was awarded a thousand gold pieces.
He was bound for greater glory when religious intolerance and political asininity cut him down. Palace advisors and religious heads forced Sultan Murad to do otherwise. Hezarfen was exiled to Algeria. (In this irony of fate, he had another illustrious contemporary as company. Galileo had been sentenced for life and put under house arrest in 1633 for unmitigated brilliance that religion and politics found hard to digest.)
After two years Hezarfen died. He was thirty-one.
According to the Seyahatname of Ottoman historian and traveller Evliya Çelebi, in circa 1630-1632, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew as an early aviator using artificial wings for gliding from this tower over the Bosporus to the slopes of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side, nearly six kilometres away. 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.
İstanbul Kanatlarımın Altında” Istanbul Under My Wings”, 1996 is a film about the lives of Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi, his brother Lagari Hasan Çelebi, and the Ottoman society in the early 17th century, during the reign of Murad IV, as witnessed and narrated by Evliya Çelebi.
Evliya Çelebi also appears in Orhan Pamuk’s novel The White Castle.
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