BBC | The ‘first true scientist’ – al-Haytham

By Professor Jim Al-Khalili – University of Surrey

Isaac Newton is, as most will agree, the greatest physicist of all time.

al-haythamAt the very least, he is the undisputed father of modern optics,­ or so we are told at school where our textbooks abound with his famous experiments with lenses and prisms, his study of the nature of light and its reflection, and the refraction and decomposition of light into the colours of the rainbow.

Yet, the truth is rather greyer; and I feel it important to point out that, certainly in the field of optics, Newton himself stood on the shoulders of a giant who lived 700 years earlier.

For, without doubt, another great physicist, who is worthy of ranking up alongside Newton, is a scientist born in AD 965 in what is now Iraq who went by the name of al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham.

Most people in the West will never have even heard of him.

As a physicist myself, I am quite in awe of this man’s contribution to my field, but I was fortunate enough to have recently been given the opportunity to dig a little into his life and work through my recent filming of a three-part BBC Four series on medieval Islamic scientists.

Complete at the source: BBC Science and Technology
Earlier posts on al-Haytham at Ismaili Mail
Related articles at Institute of Ismaili Studies:
From Ibn Sina to Tusi: The Scientific Tradition in Medieval Islam
Ibn al-Haytham or Alhazen by Dr Nader El-Bizri
Beauty and Islam: Aesthetics in Islamic Art and Architecture

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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