Mr Robert Hall (University of Oxford): Ibn al-Haytham (965-ca.1040; Latin: Alhazen): a Report


Abstract: Ibn al-Haytham, one of the most important of medieval Islamic scientific thinkers, worked in mathematics, astronomy, and, especially, in optics.   He had enjoyed a rather tranquil existence in later science and then in historical scholarship until quite recently.  How he fitted into the history of later optics was a contentious matter; but not long after A. I. Sabra’s article on Ibn al-Haytham for the Dictionary of Scientific Biography appeared in 1972, it began to seem that everything apparently known about him might be mistaken.  What could firmly be said about his biography?  Wasn’t Ibn al-Haytham actually two people, rather than one?  Why was he so feeble in treating refraction?  Was the elementary general work on astronomy assigned to him actually his?  Shouldn’t there be an advanced work of theoretical astronomy by him?  Should his work in optics be called revolutionary (a continuation of earlier questions)?  Did he (this by a different lot of people) create, or at least start, the Scientific Revolution?

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Hilary Term 2018 Seminars in HSMT