Who was Ibn al-Haytham?

Hevelius Selenographia frontispiece
left: detail of Hevelius Selenographia frontispiece,
with portrait of Ibn al-Haytham.
Click the image for the complete picture

Born 965AD in Basra, Iraq, died 1040AD Cairo, Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (known in the West by the Latinised form of his first name, initially “Alhacen” and later “Alhazen”) was a pioneering scientific thinker who made important contributions to the understanding of vision, optics and light. His methodology of investigation, in particular using experiment to verify theory, shows certain similarities to what later became known as the modern scientific method.

Through his Book of Optics (Kitab al-Manazir) and its Latin translation (De Aspectibus), his ideas influenced European scholars including those of the European Renaissance. Today, many consider him a pivotal figure in the history of optics and the “Father of modern Optics”.

The Book of Optics presented experimentally founded arguments against the widely held extramission theory of vision (as held by Euclid in his Optica), and proposed the modern intromission theory, the now accepted model that vision takes place by light entering the eye. The book is also noted for its early use of the scientific method, its description of the camera obscura, and its formulation of Alhazen's problem. The book extensively affected the development of optics, physics and mathematics in Europe between the 13th and 17th centuries.

Ibn al-Haytham was born during a creative period known as the golden age of Muslim civilisation that saw many fascinating advances in science, technology and medicine. In an area that spread from Spain to China, inspirational men and women, of different faiths and cultures, built upon knowledge of ancient civilisations, making discoveries that had a huge and often under appreciated impact on our world.

Book of Optics title page engraving Opticae Thesaurus- wikipedia

Front page of the Opticae Thesaurus, which included the first printed Latin translation of Alhazen's Book of Optics. The illustration incorporates many examples of optical phenomena including perspective effects, the rainbow, mirrors, and refraction. Also it shows how Archimedes allegedly set Roman ships on fire with parabolic mirrors during the Siege of Syracuse Wikipedia

Please remember the 5 W's. Is it an idea to ask students to depict the four different phenomia of light in the illustration? It is also a fun illustration to colour. After all it is more than 1200 years old.

His most influential work is titled Kitāb al-Manāẓir (Arabic: كتاب المناظر, "Book of Optics"), written during 1011–1021, which survived in a Latin edition 'Opticae Thesaurus'. The works of Alhazen were frequently cited during the scientific revolution by Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Christiaan Huygens, and Galileo Galilei.

see slides:   # 01-02 - Ibn al Haytham  or # 01-02a,  and # 01-02b