Department of Mathematics


A Brief History of the Mathematics Department of Boğaziçi University Until 2000

                                                                                                                By Alp Eden (2013)

  The roots of the current department can be traced back to the days of Robert College in the late 1950s. With the founding of the Yüksek Okul in 1957 and the recognition of a University Status, the need for higher level mathematics courses have become more pressing. In 1959 the College of Sciences and Languages was formed and an independent mathematics department came into existence.

Before 1970, there were few degree granting Mathematics Departments in Turkey. The first was established in İstanbul University in 1933, the second one in Ankara University in 1948 and the third one was in the Middle East Technical University that started in early 1960’s.  During these early Robert College days Cahit Arf, Ferruh Şemin and Fikret Kortel all taught in the newly formed mathematics department and contributed to a program consisting of 7 required and 9 elective courses in mathematics. They all held full-time positions in İstanbul University as well. Despite this strong faculty, there were only four graduates of the Mathematics department before 1971. In the same period, Chemistry had 52 and Physics had 19 graduates. In 1960s the department mainly functioned as a service department for the engineering students of the college. 

In 1965, Cahit Arf has left for Princeton University and concurrently the program of the department was transformed into a more flexible format, consisting of only 3 required calculus courses and an additional 10 mathematics electives. In order to meet the demand of the service courses the department had to rely on part-time faculty members from other universities as well as from other departments in Robert College not all of whom had a PhD degree in Mathematics.

The constant flux of members with relatively short tenure was a common theme in the 60’s. The department had usually a handful of faculty members, coming either as a Fullbright scholar or through the support of the AID funds. A partial list of visiting scholars at the time is furnished below. These faculty members worked in  the mathematics department serving both the needs of the high school as well as of the University. Although department enjoyed an ever renewing faculty with degrees from the top Universities of USA, their brief tenures did not allow them to have a lasting impact. This impressive list contained graduates of Chicago, UC Berkeley and MIT among others. Joyce Shana’a became the last chairwoman of the Robert College period that ended in 1971.

The vision of a mathematics department mainly serving as a service department was deeply rooted in its formation. Out of the 13 faculty members that were hired before 1970 only 2 remained more than 5 years: Fikret Kortel and Nicholas Alter, the later also headed the first computer center that was formed in the university.  

Formation Years:  

The official change from Robert College to Boğaziçi University in 1972 did not have an immediate effect in the curriculum of the Mathematics Department. The program was still loosely defined in the early 70’s. Only few from the graduates in those early years chose an academic career in mathematics such as Ayşe Soysal, Haluk Arıtürk, Semih Koray and Ali Erhan Özlük.  

In 1972 Julian Crowell became the chair of the department, the first with a long tenure and managed to attract other mathematicians to the department. Out of the 43 faculty new members hired during 1970’s 21 stayed more than 5 years. With the influx of the new faculty members, the department’s undergraduate program was further developed and a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics has been instituted. Atilla Aşkar, a graduate of the Civil Engineering Department of Princeton University who joined the department in 1972 was instrumental in developing the program in Applied Mathematics. The first two to receive Masters degree were Peren Semi and Adnan İlerici in 1976. Peren Semi also served as an Instructor in the Department for 25 years teaching the calculus courses mainly for the Business Administration students.  

Late 70’s witnessed the completion of the first PhD degrees from the department; Mehmet Can (advisor: Atilla Aşkar), Kadir Ahre and Semih Koray (advisor: John Selden). Both Kadir Ahre and Mehmet Can joined the faculty of Istanbul Technical University, Kadir Ahre was also a part time instructor in the department in 1980’s. Semih Koray started working in the Mathematics Department of Middle East Technical University (1981-1992).  

Another development during this period was the institution of the junior college (otherwise known as “önlisans” program) in Mathematics.  It was a three year program giving an associate degree and allowing its graduates to teach mathematics in secondary schools. The departments in the junior college had their own faculty members:  


Ömür Akyüz, Fikret Kortel, Ayşe Şahinyılmaz (BS 1974, İU), Ender Şamikoğlu (BS 1965 İU), İsak Behar (1974-1979), Abdülkadir Akif Özdeğer (1974-1976)  

Out of the 85 students that were registered to the junior college in 1974, only 37 have finally graduated. Successful graduates were given the chance of completing the four year program in mathematics.  

Unfortunately, the depletion of AID funds obliged the American professors to seek employment elsewhere in the late 1970’s, leaving behind a department with a heavy service load and a budding undergraduate and graduate program. In spite of these conditions the late 70’s was a period of growth and consolidation for the department. Fikret Kortel who being the chairman at the time had to find a solution to this challenging problem. As it happened many times in the past, part-time faculty members from other departments and even from other universities came to help. A list of these faculty members is given below.  

Late 1970’s Ali Ülger came from Hacettepe University and started teaching the undergraduate and graduate analysis courses, as well as Yavuz Nutku and Rahmi Güven who came from Middle East Technical University. These faculty members together with Atilla Aşkar, who all became members of TUBA later on (The Turkish Academy of Sciences), contributed greatly to the worldwide recognition of the department.  

In contrast to a small number of graduates between 1933 to 1971 (just 4) as mathematics major, this number has increased to 59 between the years 1971-1981. Moreover, 14 MAs and 3 PhDs have been granted. This period was one of the most active periods of the department’s history.  

Under the New University Law  

After the formation of the Higher Educational Council (YÖK) that oversees the governance of all the Turkish Universities, the Faculty of Sciences and Languages have transformed into the College of Arts and Sciences that consisted of 8 Departments and the first appointed Dean to the College was Murat Dikmen who replaced Erdal İnönü in 1982. Murat Dikmen taught in the Mathematics department. With the new university bylaws, it was a period of adjustments for the departments. The new Rector and the Dean was appointed from İstanbul Technical University and were not familiar with the traditions that were deeply rooted in the University.  

Out of the 18 faculty members that have been hired in this period only 6 stayed more than 5 years.  Part-time faculty members from other departments and universities were recruited in order to meet the ever increasing demand for the service courses. Under these unfavorable circumstances, the total number of graduate students dropped to a mere four. Yet the department managed to graduate 103 mathematics majors during this period.  

Ahmet Şimşek (1987, advisor : Atilla Aşkar) was the only PhD recipient in 1980’s.  Among the undergraduates ventured to pursue an academic career in Mathematics were Alp Eden (1981), Mete Soner (1981), Turgay Kaptanoğlu (1982), Murat Tuncalı (1982), Talin Papazyan Budak (1984), Ahmet Bakkaloğlu (1985), Tuna Altınel (1989), Ali Mostafazadeh (1989).  

1980’s also witnessed the transformation of the MS and PhD degrees in Mathematics without an emphasis on Applied Mathematics and the formation of a new undergraduate concentration (computational mathematics).  

With the new amendments to the University Law, the faculty members of Boğaziçi University was able to elect their own Rector in 1992. A period of reconstruction followed. The number of mathematics graduates have increased more than 3-folds in 1990’s, also the number of undergraduates that are pursuing an academic career have increased in numbers. A list of these graduate students and the schools that they continued their careers in can be found on the departmental web page. In the same period there were also 44 students getting their masters degrees from the department. Some of those graduates have later joined to the department as faculty members, like Fatih Ecevit (1998) and Özlem Beyarslan (1999).  

The recruitment of new faculty members in 1990’s resembled the period of 1980’s in the sense that out of the 18 faculty members recruited in this period only 5 remained more than 5 years and most of the others worked less than a year. The visitors during the same period also stayed at most one year.  


Joyce Shana’a (1969-71); Julian Crowell (1972-1978); Fikret Kortel (1978-1983); Atilla Aşkar (1984-1991); Ayşe Soysal (1991-1992); Rahmi Güven (1992-1997); Nilgün Işık (1997-1999); Alp Eden (1999-2001); Betül Tanbay (2001-2004); Ahmet Feyzioğlu (2004-2006);Haluk Oral (2006-2008);Talin Budak (2008-2010);Nihat Sadık Değer (2010- )  



Cahit Arf (1957-1964) (PhD 1938 U Göttingen, advisor: Helmut Hasse)

Fikret Kortel (1957-1984) (PhD 1952 IU in Physics, advisor: Marcel Fouchet)

Ferruh Şemin (1960-1963) (PhD 1944 IU, advisor: Kerim Erim)

John Freely (1960-1961) (PhD Princeton in Physics)

Edward Jacobsen (1962-1965) (MS U Wisconsin);

Lucille (Kathryn Pinette) Zukowski (1966);

Nicholas Alter (1966-1972) (MS 1962 U Chicago);

John B. Jr. Butler (1966) (Full-bright Prof, PhD 1954 UC Berkeley, advisor: Frantisek Wolf);

David Merriell (1967) (Full-bright Prof, PhD 1951 U Chicago, advisor: Abraham Adrian Albert)

John F. Scott-Thomas (1967-1968) (PhD 1962 MIT, advisor: Norman Levinson);

William Stone (1968) (Full-bright Prof, PhD 1947 Iowa State U);

Harlan Stevens (1968) (PhD 1960 Duke U, advisor: Leonard Carlitz);

Wendell Lindstrom (1969) (PhD 1953 U Iowa);

Joyce Shana’a (1969-1971) (PhD U Oklahoma)  


Carl H. Helms (1971-72) (MA 1964 Washington State University);

Richard Rowland (1971);

Mehmet Emin Bozhöyük (1971-1973) (PhD 1972 Princeton U);

Julian Crowell (1972 -1978) (PhD 1966 U Vanderbilt);

Bernard A. Asner Jr. (1972) (PhD 1968 Northwestern U, advisor: Arthur Wouk);

Atilla Aşkar (1972-1993) (PhD 1969 Princeton in Civil Engineering);

Ratıp Berker (1972-1979) (PhD 1936 U Lille, advisor: Marie-Joseph Kampé de Fériet);

Şarman Gencay (1972-1981) (PhD 1970 İTÜ in Nuclear Engineering, advisor: Nejat Aybers);

Emine Rızaoğlu (1972-1976) (PhD 1976 IU in Physics, advisor: Ahmet Yüksel Özemre);

Çetin Ertek (1972-1973) (PhD 1967 IU in Physics, advisor: Sait Akpınar);

Orhan İçen (1972-1975) (PhD 1955 U Gottingen, advisor: Theodor Schneider)

Neşet Ayırtman (1972-1974) (PhD 1962, IU, advisor: Cahit Arf);

Peren Semi (1972-1997) (MS 1976 BU);

Kemal Ateşmen (1973-1978) (PhD 1970 Colorado State U);

Alice Arndt (1973-1975) (MS 1965, U North Carolina);

Hüseyin Abut (1973-1979) (PhD 1972, North Carolina State U in Electrical Engineering)

H. Murat Çekirge (1974-1977) (PhD 1972 Lehigh University in Applied Mechanics);

Alfred P. Hallstrom (1974-1975) (PhD 1968 Brown); 

Thomas Robertson (1974); (MA U Southern California)

Abdülkadir Akif Özdeğer (1974-1976) (PhD 1968 IU, advisor: Ferruh Şemin)

Charles W. Mullins (1974-1977) (PhD 1966 U Illinois);

Cem Göknar (1974-1975, 1980-1981) (PhD 1969 Michigan State U in Electrical Engineering);

Annie Selden (1974-1979) (PhD 1973 Clarkson College, advisor: John Selden);

John Selden (1974-1978) (PhD 1963, U Georgia, advisor: Robert Paul Hunter);

İsak Behar (1974-1979) (PhD 1974 Faculte de Sciences, Grenoble)

İrini Dimitriadis (1975-2003) (PhD 1974 BU, advisor: Murat Sertel)

Denis Ragan Floyd (1975-1977) (PhD 1967 U Washington, advisor: James Patrick Jans);

Bruce Prekowitz (1975-1976) (PhD 1971 Chicago U, advisor: Irvine Kaplansky);

Alan R. Mitchell (1975-1976) (PhD 1975 Brown U, advisor: Paul Frank Baum);

Ayse Soysal (Kusefoglu) (1976- ) (PhD 1976 U Michigan, advisor: Jack E. McLaughlin)

M. Tamer Başar (1976 -1980) (PhD 1972 Yale, advisor: Max Luria Mintz);

Necdet Üçoluk (1976-1981);

Kemal Batova (1976-1985) (BS 1956 IU);

Ayşe Zerrin Göktürk (1977- ) (PhD 1974 U Helsinki, advisor: Olli Erkki Lehto);

Yusuf Ünlü (1977-1979) (PhD 1976 U Kansas, advisor: Jack Ray Porter); 

Haluk Arıtürk (1977-1980) (PhD 1975 Johns Hopkins U, advisor: Jun-Ichi Igusa);

Şermin Atacık (1977-1981) (PhD 1977 Temple U, advisor: Louis Raymon);

Halit Temel Belek (1978-1984) (PhD 1977 U of Surrey in Mechanical Engineering);

Cengiz Aydın (1978-1979) (PhD 1976 İTÜ);

Ali Başak Karatay (1978-1983) (PhD 1999 U of Syracuse in Logic);

Ali Ülger (1978-1996) (PhD 1976 U Besançon, advisor: Alain Bensoussan);

Rahmi Güven (1978-1981, 1989-2005) (PhD 1976 METU, advisor: Yavuz Nutku);

Yavuz Nutku (1979-1989) (PhD 1969 Chicago U, advisor: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar);  


Yomtov Garti (1980-1984), (PhD 1939 IU, advisor: Richard von Mises);

Tom Brown (1980-1981) (PhD 1964 Washington U, advisor: Earl Edwin Lazerson);

Birsen Karpak (1981-1982) (DBA, 1974 IU);

Alsan Meriç (1981-1982) (PhD 1973 Carnegie-Mellon in Mechanical Engineering);

Tunç Aldemir (1981-1982) (PhD 1978 U of Illinois at Chicago in Nuclear Engineering);

Murat Dikmen (1982-1988) (PhD 1959 İTÜ, advisor: Mustafa İnan);

Ali Erhan Özlük (1982-1987) (PhD 1982 U Michigan, advisor: Hugh Lowell Montgomery);

Nilgün Işık (1982- ) (PhD 1980 Sheffield U, advisor: John Pym);

Mehmet Kaytaz (1982-1983) (PhD 1978, Nothingam U in Economics);

K. Gediz Akdeniz (1982-1984) (Ph. D. 1967, IU in Physics, advisor: Ahmet Yüksel Özemre);

Jacques Alev (1984-1985) (PhD advisor: Marie-Paule Malliavin);

Can Fuat Delale (1984-1990) (PhD 1983 Brown U);

Ercüment Ortaçgil (1985-2011) (PhD 1985 John Hopkins U, advisor: Bernard Shiffman);

Hans Beumee (1986);

Kadir Ahre (1978-1979, 1986-1987) (PhD 1979 BU, advisor: John Selden);

Ahmet Şimşek (1987) (PhD 1987 BU, advisor: Atilla Aşkar);

Ahmet Feyzioğlu (1987- ) (PhD 1987 Johannes Gutenberg U, advisor: Bertram Huppert);

Betul Tanbay (1989- ) (PhD 1989 UC Berkeley, advisor: Robert Solovay);  


Talin Budak (1990- ) (PhD 1990 Sheffield U, advisor: John Pym)

Haluk Oral (1990-2010) ( PhD 1989 Simon Fraser, advisor: Chris D. Godsil)

A. Feyyaz Güvençer (1991) (MS 1984 BU in Computer Engineering);

Alp Eden (1992- ) (PhD 1989 Indiana U, advisor: Ciprian Foias)

Gulnihal Yucel (1994- ) ( MS 1994 Bilkent U)

Yilmaz Akyildiz (1994-2007) ( PhD 1976 UC Berkeley, advisor: Alan David Weinstein )  

Visitors (at least for a semester)  

Jack Goldberg (1970, 1982, 1998); John Sydney Pym (1986-1988, 2003-2005); Robert Gwyn Owens (1990-1993); Asaf G. Gadjiev (1992-1997); Collin Christopher (1993-1995); Brian Pilz (1993-1994); Mikhail I. Ostrovskii (1998); Gerald J. Wuchter (1998); Patrick Lambert (1999); Richard Sharpe (1999); Renat N. Gumerov (1999); Valery Grikurov (1999); Halil Mete Soner (1999); Asuman Güven Aksoy (2000-2001); Arif Mardin (2005-2006); Harry I. Miller (2006-2007); Flavio Alessandro (2009)  

Part-time Faculty from other Departments / Universities  

Vural Altın; Ali Fuat Balkanay; Haluk Beker; Hilmi Demiray ;Yağmur Denizhan; Saadet Erbay; Avadis Hacınlıyan; Ersin Karabudak ; Jak Kornflit ; Hülya Şenkon; Zeynep Tlabar;  

First Undergraduates: 1968 Ali Yalman; 1971 Haluk Arıtürk, Ayşe Soysal ; 1972 Semih Koray ; 1973 Egberg Ammicht (NJIT)  

First PhD Degrees: 1979 Kadir Ahre; 1980 Semih Koray; 1981 Mehmet Can                 

First MS Degrees: 1976  Peren Semi, Adnan İlerici; 1977 Ayşe Mine Kuban (Dalfes), Semih Koray; 1978  Mehmet Can, Hulusi Özoklav, Peren Semi, Levent Soysal, Hayriye İnci Ergene (Şeker) ; 1979  Gürol Irzık, Muammer Baykal ; 1980   Ercüment Ortaçgil ; 1981  Haluk Oral, Alemdar Demirel,  Fehmi Yavuztürk