Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The 'mad' Egyptian scholar who proved Aristotle wrong

Date:
January 10, 2011
Source:
Institute of Physics
Summary:
Ibn al-Haytham's 11th-century Book of Optics, which was published exactly 1000 years ago, is often cited alongside Newton's Principia as one of the most influential books in physics. Yet very little is known about the writer, considered by many to be the father of modern optics.

Ibn al-Haytham's 11th-century Book of Optics, which was published exactly 1000 years ago, is often cited alongside Newton's Principia as one of the most influential books in physics. Yet very little is known about the writer, considered by many to be the father of modern optics.

January's Physics World features a fanciful re-imagining of the 10-year period in the life of the medieval Muslim polymath, written by Los Angeles-based science writer Jennifer Ouellette.

The feature covers the time when al-Haytham -- banished from society and deprived of books -- came up with his revolutionary theories about the form and passage of light.

Ouellette brings detail to the skeletal plot of al-Haytham's life, from the awe and intimidation felt when he was summoned by the Caliph to use his engineering prowess to overcome the annual flooding of the Nile, to his fear of punishment when he realised he had failed in his task.

Al-Haytham was only able to escape a death sentence from the notoriously brutal Caliph by pretending he had gone mad. The Caliph instead incarcerated Al-Haytham, imprisoning him under house arrest to a cell. Confined and alone, it was here that Al-Haytham carried out the work that was to make him famous.

In 11th-century Egypt, Aristotle's ancient thought that visible objects and our own eyes emit rays of light to enable our vision still held.

Ouellette imagines al-Haytham lying alone in his darkened room questioning why the objects in the room are not emitting light and asking 'Is it possible that the ancients were mistaken?'

The question providing the crux, al-Haytham was spurred into experimental action with the candles and copper in his bare room to conclude that there is no mysterious "form" that all objects emit; rather there are sources of primary light that are reflected by other objects.

As Ouellette writes, "This is a work of fiction -- a fanciful re-imagining of a 10-year period in the life of Ibn al-Haytham, considered by many historians to be the father of modern optics. Living at the height of the golden age of Arabic science, al-Haytham developed an early version of the scientific method 200 years before scholars in Western Europe."

Released from prison after the Caliph's death, Al-Haytham (AD 965-1040) went on to make contributions to astronomy, mathematics, engineering and medicine, as well as physics. But it his seven-volume Book of Optics, which he wrote while imprisoned, that remain his most famous contributions to science, covering visual perception, psychology and physical optics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jennifer Ouellette. The Scholar and the Caliph. Physics World, January 2011 [link]

Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics. "The 'mad' Egyptian scholar who proved Aristotle wrong." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144254.htm>.
Institute of Physics. (2011, January 10). The 'mad' Egyptian scholar who proved Aristotle wrong. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144254.htm
Institute of Physics. "The 'mad' Egyptian scholar who proved Aristotle wrong." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144254.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) Argentina doesn't only have Lionel Messi the footballer, it has now also acquired "Mesi" the drone system which monitors undeclared mansions, swimming pools and soy fields to curb tax evasion in the country. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 29, 2014) CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, celebrates 60 years of bringing nations together through science. As Joanna Partridge reports from inside the famous science centre it's also planning to turn the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator back on after an upgrade. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) Researchers from the University of Rochester have created a type of invisibility cloak with simple focal lenses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins