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Ibn al-Haytham  

Abdelhamid I. Sabra

Egyptian scientist, was known in his lifetime as al-Basri, where he was first in Basra, Iraq, and as al-Misri, since he ended his life in Cairo, having escaped from the “widespread plagues” described in some detail by the Christian physician Ibn Butlan (d. AH 458/1066 CE). Ibn Butlan witnessed the plagues while he traveled to Aleppo, al-Fustat, and al-Qustantiniyya, and he lists Ibn al-Haytham among “the men of science” who fell victim to the plague.

Ibn al-Haytham’s education is known mainly from his extant writings, which luckily are many, most of them original and impressive, with continuous interest in astronomy, and especially a new significant emphasis on the study of light as a clear branch of “physics”: “light,” he noted, in his Optics book 5 does not behave in the way it does for the sake of the eye He was not an atomist but he accepted ...