September 23, 2007

Books of the Golden Age – Kitab Al Manazir – Ibn Al-Haytham

Posted in Books Reviews, English at 2:56 pm by Rou...

Sight does not perceive any visible object unless there exists in the object some light, which the object possesses of itself or which radiates upon it from another object.”  ~ Ibn al-Haytham – The Book of Optics


The great astronomer, mathematician, and physician Iraqi Arab Muslim scientist Ibn al-Haytham (354- 430 hijri / 965 – 1039) (known in the West as Alhazen or Alhacen) seems to have written around 92 works of which, remarkably, over 55 have survived. The main topics on which he wrote were optics, including a theory of light and a theory of vision, astronomy, and mathematics, including geometry and number theory. However, the seven volume treatise on optics, physics, anatomy, mathematics and psychology, Kitab al-Manazir (The Book of Optics), is considered by many to be Ibn al-Haytham‘s most important contribution. Alhazen wrote it from 1011 to 1021, when he was under house arrest and imprisoned as a madman in Cairo, Egypt.


In his Kitab al-Manazir, the eleventh-century scholar corrected misconceptions about vision and light that scholars had believed for centuries and offered a new solution to the problem of vision through the earliest discussions and descriptions on psychophysics and experimental psychology, the psychology of visual perception, and the camera obscura.  


In medicine and ophthalmology, the book also made important advances in eye surgery, as it correctly explained the process of sight for the first time. In addition, the work also had an influence on the use of optical aids in Renaissance art and the development of the telescope and microscope.


The contents of the seven volumes go as follows:

    Book I is devoted to the structure of the eye.

    Book II discusses visual perception.

    Book III examines conditions necessary for good vision and how errors in vision are caused.

    Book IV discusses the theory of reflection.

    Book V introduces Alhazen’s problem and its solution.

    Book VI examines errors in vision due to reflection.

    Book VII, examines refraction.


Other important facts from Ibn al-Haytham’s Kitab al-Manazir:


    He was the first to prove that rays of light travel in straight lines, and carried out a number of experiments with lenses, mirrors, refraction, and reflection.

    He was also the first to reduce reflected and refracted light rays into vertical and horizontal components, which was a fundamental development in geometric optics.


    He also discovered a result similar to Snell’s law of sines, but did not quantify it and derive the law mathematically.

    He is also credited with the invention of the camera obscura; a precursor to the modern camera.

    He also wrote on the refraction of light, especially on atmospheric refraction, for example, the cause of morning and evening twilight.

    He solved the problem of finding the point on a convex mirror at which a ray coming from one point is reflected to another point.

    He also experimented on the dispersion of light into its constituent colors.


Ibn al-Haytham’s Kitab al-Manazir had an important influence on the development of optics, and science in general, as it drastically transformed the understanding of light and vision, and introduced the experimental scientific method. As a result, Ibn al-Haytham has been described as the father of optics, the pioneer of the modern scientific method, and the first scientist”.


The Book of Optics has been ranked alongside Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica as one of the most influential books ever written in the history of physics.



All the best,


On September 23rd, 2007 




http://www.druzehis toryandculture. com/historical_ research. htm


http://www.pre- renaissance. com/scholars/ ibn-al-haitham. html

http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Book_of_Optics

http://www-history. s/Al-Haytham. html



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