Both a history of science and a history of Islam, The Lighthouse and the Observatory: Islam, Science, and Empire in Late Ottoman Egypt
(Cambridge University Press, 2018) by Daniel Stolz tells the story of Ottoman Egypt and astronomy, looking at how astronomy tied together the state and religious practice. We talk about how religious authority was negotiated through astronomy, the zij (
the genre of astronomic handbooks used by astronomers), translation, and how print affected the distribution of astronomic knowledge. Stolz also contends with the specter of the nahda
, or the Arabic language intellectual renaissance, and he tells us how he deals with it in his work. As always, we check in with the field of Middle Eastern history and ask what one should do with increasingly limited access to archives.
is an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was previously a visiting assistant professor of history at Northwestern University, where he was also affiliated with the Science in Human Culture Program. He received his PhD from Princeton University in Near Eastern Studies. He is a historian of the modern Middle East, specializing in Egypt and the late Ottoman Empire. He is the author of many articles on science and religion in Egypt and the monograph discussed in this interview.
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.