UNESCO celebrates the work of Ibn Al-Haytham in 2015 – the International Year of Light

UNESCO celebrates the work of Ibn Al-Haytham in 2015 - the International Year of LightIbn Al-Haytham (965-1039), known as Alhazen in the West, was a philosopher, physicist, and mathematician. Born in Basra, Iraq, he spent many years in Cairo working for the Fatimid Imam-Caliph Hakim bi-Amr Allah (985-1021). Although he conducted research in geometry, astronomy,and mathematics, based on the knowledge of Greek scholars, his greatest contribution was in the field of optics, for which he is called the “father of optics.”

Ibn Al-Haytham’s remarkable achievement was a detailed description of the human eye and the functions of its various parts. He was the first scientist to give a correct account of how we see objects: that the emission theory (that light from our eyes shines upon the objects we see), which was believed by great thinkers such as Plato, Euclid and Ptolemy, was wrong and established the modern idea that we see because light enters our eyes. While testing his hypothesis of how the eye works, he discovered the camera obscura, which is the Latin term for a dark room or box with a hole in it through which light shines, projecting an image from one side to the other, or the pinhole camera. He also wrote on the propagation of light and colours, optical illusions and reflections, spherical and parabolic mirrors, shadows and eclipses, the rainbow and the halo. He was one of the earliest scholars to recognize gravity as a force and knew correctly the relations between the motion, space and time of falling bodies.

One of his most important works, Kitab al-manazir (The Optics) was translated into Latin and introduced many scholars of the thirteenth century to new concepts of light and vision. These new concepts were to influence the Gothic style of cathedral building of medieval Europe and the principle of visual perspective that revolutionized pictorial representation.

UNESCO has declared 2015 as the International Year of Light and will partner with “1001 Inventions to celebrate Ibn Al-Haytham. The 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham campaign will be launched through an interactive exhibit which will be a key part of the IYL2015 Opening Ceremony at UNESCO HQ over 19-20 January 2015. The campaign will then roll out in countries around the world through the partnership of science centres, science festivals, museums, and educational institutions, digital and social media platforms.”*

References:
*1000 Years of Arabic Optics to be a Focus of the International Year of Light in 2015
Dr Valerie Gonzalea, Universality and Modernity of Ibn al-Haytham’s Thought and Science, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Encyclopaedia Britannica

Research by Nimira Dewji


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