A lot of people are surprised to find out that it is not Isaac Newton, Aristotle or Galileo who is the father of modern scientific method. The use of scientific experiments originated from the Islamic World and not the Western one. Thousands of years ago, Ibn al-Haytham, an Arab scientist, backed theory with own experiments. 

Who is Ibn al-Haytham الحسن بن الهيث (Alhazen)?

Ibn al-Haytham was born in 965 in what is now present-day Iraq. He was a mathematician and astronomer who provided noteworthy contributions to the modern scientific method and the principles of optics.

He was born in the Golden Age of Arabic science. His father was a civil servant, which was the reason why he got good education growing up. He was also a devout Muslim, who believed that his quest for the truth about the natural world brought him closer to God. During the early part of the 11th century, he moved to Cairo. It was in Egypt where he completed his most influential works.

Ibn al-Haytham experimented to prove that we see because light from objects travels in a straight line into our eyes.

Debunking the Emission Theory

During that time, people thought that the eyes illuminated and that’s why we can see things. This theory was supported by great thinkers such as Ptolemy and Euclid. The emission theory stated that the eyes emitted light such as little flashlights. Ibn al-Haytham disagreed with the theory, and that’s why he started researching on the properties and behavior of light.

It was in 1011 when he made some breakthroughs in exploring the nature of light. During that time he was placed under house arrest by a powerful caliph in Cairo. Over the next decade, he proved that light travels in straight lines, but can bend when moving through different mediums, such as water. He also explained how mirrors work.

He was unsatisfied with coming up with the theories and proving them to himself. Ibn al-Haytham wanted to show his proofs to others. And that’s why he published his Book of Optics, which explained his scientific methods and his ideas. The book showed steps on how to do all his experiments.

Ibn al-Haytham's diagram of the eyes from his Book of Optics

Ibn al-Haytham wants to show to the world that his theories are true. He doesn’t want people to just take his word for it but instead see them working for themselves. Aside from being the father of modern scientific method, he was also a promoter of skepticism and critical thinking.

In the book, he said that it is the duty of every individual to investigate the works of scientists. If one wants to learn, then the person must be an enemy of what was written. One should be suspicious about what was written. It should be analyzed so as not to fall into leniency or prejudice.

Ibn al-Haytham advocated the slow scientific method to get accurate results. He laid the foundation to the scientific method that tinkered with old ideas and accumulated results of experiments over time to come up with a new scientific discovery. It was Ibn al-Haytham who laid out the elements that were needed by the great thinkers hundred years after his time.

A Qatarian postage stamp portraying Ibn al-Haitham.

List of His Works (1)

  1. Book of Optics (كتاب المناظر )
  2. Analysis and Synthesis (مقالة في التحليل والتركيب)
  3. Balance of Wisdom (ميزان الحكمة. )
  4. Corrections to the Almagest (تصويبات على المجسطي. )
  5. Discourse on Place (مقالة في المكان. )
  6. Exact Determination of the Pole (التحديد الدقيق للقطب)
  7. Exact Determination of the Meridian (رسالة في الشفق)
  8. Finding the Direction of Qibla by Calculation (كيفية حساب اتجاه القبلة)
  9. Horizontal Sundials (المزولة الأفقية)
  10. Hour Lines
  11. Doubts Concerning Ptolemy (شكوك على بطليموس.)
  12. Maqala fi'l-Qarastun (مقالة في قرسطون)
  13. On Completion of the Conics (إكمال المخاريط )
  14. On Seeing the Stars (رؤية الكواكب )
  15. On Squaring the Circle (مقالة فی تربیع الدائرة )
  16. On the Burning Sphere ( المرايا المحرقة بالدوائر)
  17. On the Configuration of the World (تكوين العالم.-)
  18. On the Form of Eclipse (مقالة فی صورة ‌الکسوف-)
  19. On the Light of Stars (مقالة في ضوء النجوم - )
  20. On the Light of the Moon (مقالة في ضوء القمر)
  21. On the Milky Way (مقالة في درب التبانة.)
  22. On the Nature of Shadows (كيفيات الإظلال)
  23. On the Rainbow and Halo (مقالة في قوس قزح)
  24. Opuscula
  25. Resolution of Doubts Concerning the Almagest
  26. Resolution of Doubts Concerning the Winding Motion
  27. The Correction of the Operations in Astronomy
  28. The Different Heights of the Planets
  29. The Direction of Mecca (اتجاه القبلة)
  30. The Model of the Motions of Each of the Seven Planets (نماذج حركات الكواكب السبعة)
  31. The Model of the Universe (نموذج الكون)
  32. The Motion of the Moon (حركة القمر)
  33. The Ratios of Hourly Arcs to their Heights
  34. The Winding Motion (الحركة المتعرجة)
  35. Treatise on Light (رسالة في الضوء)
  36. Treatise on Place (رسالة في المكان)
  37. Treatise on the Influence of Melodies on the Souls of Animals (تأثير اللحون الموسيقية في النفوس الحيوانية )
  38. (كتاب في تحليل المسائل الهندسية )
  39. (الجامع في أصول الحساب)
  40. قول فی مساحة الکرة.
  41. القول المعروف بالغریب فی حساب المعاملات)
  42. خواص المثلث من جهة العمود.)
  43. رسالة فی مساحة المسجم المکافی
  44. شرح أصول إقليدس
  45. المرايا المحرقة بالقطوع


1: Wikipedia

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  • July 08, 2017
  • Fatai Badmos

If Muslims with wherewithal could encourage researches into the various department of sciences that there are, so many youths will be taken off terrorists’ hooks or violent ideology classes. Muslims and Islam are rich with knowledge unparalleled.