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Tag: Alhazen

2

Polymaths

Just like the Classical world before and the so called Renaissance Men after, the golden age of Islam was championed by polymaths, whose works rival those of Aristotle, Da Vinci or Newton.

The Arab polymaths arrived in the Renaissance under their Latinised names. For example,

1.    Ibn Sina was Avicenna

2.    Ibn Bajjah was Avempace

3.    Ibn Hayyan was Geber

4.    Ibn Rushd was Averroes

5.    Al-Kindi was Alkindus

6.    Ibn al-Haytham was Alhazen

They were so important because they used breakthroughs in one area to push forward knowledge and understanding in another. Indeed, ‘Polymathy’ is a method that has almost been lost in the West, and is only now being rediscovered – so called ‘interdisciplinary’ study. (e.g. Stanford University’s new Bio-X Program, which brings together biologists, computer scientists, medical scientists and engineers, who learn from each other’s fields). The scientists and Polymaths from the golden age worked on areas of science which are familiar to us all, and are still being studied in schools and universities today, with the same scientific method.



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11

Correcting Misconceptions

The Arab polymaths corrected a great deal of Classcial misconceptions, e.g. the Greek idea that light is emitted from the eye. The 10th century physicist al-Haytham (Latinised to Alhazen) correctly stated that light bounces off an object in straight lines before striking the eye. He developed for first camera obscura – which centuries later enabled photography. Alhazen first devised the ‘method of proof’ too, stating that theories had to be verified in practice, a key element from modern science practice, which was missing from the classical world. Abbasid scientists also introduced what we would call peer review and academic citations, unknown before their time.



TS