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Friday, April 1, 2016


Who came up with the modern scientific method? You may answer: Isaac Newton, right? But delve a little deeper into history, and you shall stand corrected. Let us present to you one of the most eminent and inventive mathematicians in the early tradition of Arabic-Islamic science: Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥaytham, also known as Alhazen or Alhacen in the West.

Born in Basra in 965 AD, he lived in Cairo, Egypt until his death at 74. He got educated in Basra which was a centre of learning in the world at the time.

He is considered a pioneer of experimental science, especially Physics. He was an original scientific thinker who made valuable contributions to the understanding in the fields of vision, optics and light. He was the author of more than two hundred books. Most of his works are now lost, but some of the ones that have are Discourse on Place, Balance of Wisdom, Hour Lines, Opuscula and many more.

Ibn-Al Haytham’s greatest contribution was the establishment of the scientific method. It is an accepted norm that every scientific fact must be supported by undeniable evidence. It was not so in the preceding Greek times where assumptions were often believed to be facts themselves. Ibn-Al Haytham for the first time established the scientific method as we know it today.

Ibn-Al Haytham’s efforts were revolutionary in the field of optics. He invented the pinhole camera and debunked the Greek theory that light came out of the eyes. He also studied the phenomenon of light passing from one medium to another and explained the color of the sky at twilight. These studies of his were all packed into a book called “The Book of Optics”.

His works weren’t restricted only to these fields. He was an astronomer too and wrote about the misconception of the Ptolemaic model of how the stars and planets move and provided a more realistic view of the way the universe works. He refused to accept astrology as a science as it could not be substantiated by facts or deductions.

Ibn-Al Haytham’s works left a lasting legacy. His works influenced the great Isaac Newton and many of his theories had their basis in Ibn-Al Haytham’s works. This brilliant mind inspired many and it will not be a stretch to say that without his research, the modern world of science that we know today would not have existed.


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