John Freely, ‘the memory of Istanbul,’ passes away aged 90

John Freely, ‘the memory of Istanbul,’ passes away aged 90

John Freely, ‘the memory of Istanbul,’ passes away aged 90 John Freely, the well-known author of many history and travel books on Istanbul, Turkey and Greece, passed away on April 20 at age of 90. 

Freely wrote more than 40 books over the course of his long life, including his masterpiece “Strolling Through Istanbul: A Guide to the City,” which is seen as the perhaps the best guide to Istanbul ever written.  

Along with many travel books focusing on Turkey and its region, Freely also wrote on history, including “Storm on Horseback: The Seljuk Warriors of Turkey” and “The Grand Turk: Sultan Mehmet II: Conqueror of Constantinople and Master of an Empire.”

Dubbed “the memory of Istanbul” for his various books on the city’s history, Freely lived and taught for many years at the prestigious Boğaziçi University, having started when it was still known as Robert College.

He 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 Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey, including the course, “The Emergence of Modern Science, East and West.”

After 1960 Freely taught physics and the history of science at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, with periods in New York City, Boston, London, Athens, Oxford, and Venice. He returned to Boğaziçi University in 1993.

Besides Istanbul, he also wrote books on other landmark southern European cities like Venice and Athens. He was the father of writer and literary translator Maureen Freely.