- Library Binding: 128 pages
- Publisher: Morgan Reynolds Pub (Dec 30 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1599350246
- ISBN-13: 978-1599350240
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 299 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #922,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ibn Al-Haytham: First Scientist Library Binding – Dec 30 2006
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Ibn al-Haytham ("Alhazen" in Library of Congress cataloging) was born in Basra in 965. A Muslim who studied the works of Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, and Ptolemy, he developed an approach to science using experimentation and deduction and made significant observations and discoveries, particularly in the field of optics. Translations of his books influenced medieval European scientists and mathematicians from Bacon to Fermat to Kepler. Steffens notes that al-Haytham's discovery of the cameraobscura may have changed Western art as well. Steffens has organized what is known of his subject's life and work into a coherent narrative. He is quick to acknowledge gaps, but backs up inferences logically. Like the history of mathematics, the history of science is incomplete without an acknowledgment of early scholars in the Middle East. This clearly written introduction to al-Haytham, his society, and his contributions does that. The book concludes with a time line, source notes, a bibliography, and a list of Web sites. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Steffens provides a very nice and much needed introduction to ibn al-Haytham. Steffens' book is a readable, engaging introduction like no other available. And while it may read (as others have noted) like a children's book in places, it accomplishes much. It describes some of al-Haytham's most important experiments while placing them in historical context. It presents some (not all) of al-Haytham's long neglected work on, and thoughts about, *perception* (as opposed to simply optics and visual physiology). Steffens speculates at times about al-Haytham's motivations and thoughts, and this has led to negative reviews and challenges by some readers. But Steffens makes clear that he is speculating as he attempts to provide reasonable answers to obvious questions about al-Haytham.
In teaching my students (and my colleagues for that matter) about al-Haytham, I use the following:
1) Passages from Steffens' book, especially Steffens' concise descriptions of classic experiments, and some quotes and descriptions of al-Haytham's perceptual theories
2) Clips from Jim Al-Kalili's (BBC) 3-part special "Science and Islam", especially a 10 minute section from part 2 "The Empire of Reason," about 5/6 of the way through the program. (Al-Kalili's own book is due out soon)
3) Ian Howard's 1996 article, "Alhazen's neglected discoveries of visual phenomena'' Perception 25 1203-1217
There are other sources on al-Haytham that one might wish to consult. Sabra's 1989 "The Optics of ibn al-Haytham" is the english translation of al-Haytham's most important work on optics, "Kitab al-Manazir." I am sure that anything by A. Mark Smith on Alhacen is well worth a look, but I have yet to familiarize myself with his work (e.g., 2001 "Alhacen's Theory of Visual Perception," and his translation De Aspectibus, the latin translation of Kitab al-Manazir).
Two sources I found useful were Park's book "Fire Within the Eye," and Nicholas Wade's "A Natural History of Vision." Khaleefa's 1999 enthusiastic "Who is the founder of psychophysics and experimental psychology?'' (American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 16(2) 1-26) is certainly worth a look, but be sure to see also Aaen-Stockdale's 2008 response, "Ibn al-Haytham and Psychophysics" Perception 37, 636-638.
I have read briefly about Ibn Al-Haytham while I was in grade school. I wish I have read this book. It shows so nicely the link between different civilizations and natural evolution of science and technology. This books gives really nice insights also into the period and locations where the scientist had lived. This aids in the understanding of how such a scientist arrived at the fantastic discoveries and enlightenment he bestowed on humanity. I really cherish the description that the authors gave for the City of Baghdad during the time of Kalifa' Al Mammun: "Scientist and educators came from all over the world to study and teach at Dar Al-Hikma (House of Wisdom); no matter what their religion and nationality; they lived and studied side by side". It is very much like the US today and especially CA.
Finally, the author described the bewilderment of the scientist after spending so many years studying the two main sects of Islam at that time "Sunna and Shi'ah" and arriving at a tantalizing conclusion more than a 1,000 years ago, that essentially there is no difference between the two Sects from a technical and spiritual point of view. The difference is in the people that are promoting these two sects. A conclusion made 1,000 Years ago at the hands of an Aristotelian like figure in the Arab-Islamic world that Millions of people to this day cannot fathom or conclude.