Monday 20th October 2014,
PalScience

Ibn Al Haytham Came Up With Accurate Theories of Light in Prison

Staff Writer 2011/01/12
Ibn Al Haytham Came Up With Accurate Theories of Light in Prison

Ibn al-Haytham, considered by many historians to be the father of modern optics

His book, Book of Optics may have been published a millennium ago and often mentioned as one of the most influential books in physics but very little is known about the writer Ibn al-Haytham.

Finally though, January’s edition of the Physics World has a column explaining ten years of his life. The column was written by a science writer named Jennifer Ouellette whose base is Los Angeles.

The feature speaks of the time in al-Haytham’s life when he barred from his own society and not allowed any books. This was the same time when he came out into the open with his amazing theories on light’s passage and form.

The science writer has beautifully described all aspects of his life right from awe to the fear that overpowered him when he was called up on by the Caliph to make use of his engineering skills to find a solution for the floods of the river Nile. He was threatened that he’d be severely punished if he didn’t accomplish the task.

Al-Haytham pretended to go mad in order to avoid being killed as punishment by the cruel Caliph. He was imprisoned instead. It was in his prison that al-Haytham spent all his time working which later gave him a shot of fame.

Back in the 11th century, the theory of Aristotle that visible objects emit light was believed. But, lying in the dark room, al-Haythem might have questioned himself why all the objects around him were not emitting light. The was the question that led to all his discoveries.

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.”

Al-Haytham was released only after the brutal Caliph died and he worked relentlessly in astronomy, Math, medicine and engineering. However, his Book of Optics which consists of seven volumes, written by him while in prison was and is still, the most famous.

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