Ibn al-Haitham

Ibn al-Haitham was a scientist well ahead of his time, 1000 years ahead in fact.
Known in the West as Alhazen, he was the greatest medieval scientist and ranks with Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. Here is a brief look at his achievements:

  • Born in Iraq in 965 CE
  • Mastered maths, philosophy, physics and medicine by 30 and joined the Caliph’s scientific establishment
  • Proposed damming of the Nile, only achieved 1000 years later in 1971!
  • Wrote treatise called On Optics which expounded theories only accepted in the 17th century. Demonstrated the first principle of photography. Nobody listened and photography emerged centuries later.
  • Laid foundation for the invention of the lens in describing the structure of the eye, so accurate that much of it passed into medical books after 1246 CE, when his Arabic treatise was translated into Latin.
  • The word ‘lens’ comes from the Latin word for ‘lentil’ because Alhazen wrote that the eye was ‘lentil-shaped’.
  • Died in 1039