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Monday, August 28, 2017

Ibn al-Haytham -- the Father of Optics and Modern Science #STEM

Do you use a camera? Do you know how we see? Perhaps you use or have used the scientific method? The man behind discovering ideas behind these things and more is Ibn al-Haytham or Alhazen (his name in Latin). He was born in Basra, Iraq in the 10th century. He was a scientist, mathematician, and engineer. He lived during the Golden Age of Islam and benefited because of the knowledge being studied and shared. 


When looking at the Middle Eastern and North African cultures, we tend to look at the history. What they did with math and science is amazing and often overlooked in our traditional education. With all the discussion of STEM floating around a look at Ibn al-Haytahm is perfect. We discovered a bit about him with a National Geographics Kids book: Ibn al-Haytham: The Man Who Discovered How We See by Libby Romero. 
This book shares so much information about his life and discoveries. He was very interested in vision and did some experiments with it. He also was the first to use a scientific method similar to what we use today. What is common sense to us now was revolutionary in his time. He was the first to run investigations changing only one variable.  One experiment the book shares is what became known as the camera obscura. With a box with a hole on one side and a sheet of thin paper on the opposite side al-Haytham realized images became upside-down which proved his theory that light travels in a line. The image below shows a bit pictorial view of this theory. 
001 a01 camera obscura abrazolas
Source: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We tried to make our own camera obscura and repeat his experiment.

We used a show box with one end having wax paper on one end and a hole on the other. It did not work quite as well as his did, but we were able to see the flame a bit upside down.

Now the interesting things is that al-Haytham ended up in Cairo. I have read mixed stories as to how and why he ended up in Cairo. The caliph there however did want him to solve the flooding problems of the Nile. This was not resolved until the 20th century though. At one point al-Haytham declared he had gone mad and the caliph forced him to stay in his home until the caliph dies. During this time it is said that al-Haytham did some experiments with vision and discovered how the eye sees images upside down and our brains turn them correctly. He also saw that images were easier to see with a smaller hole thus why our cameras are the way they are. 

The only other children's book with Ibn al-Haytham that we could find at our library network is Arab Science and Invention in the Golden Age by Anne Blanchard and Emmanuel Cerisier. This book shared his look at how light could bend and suggested the simple experiment of putting a stick in a glass of water.

I could not get the perfect angles to really show it at the water's surface but the lines in our glass really helped show it at the bottom. Al-Haytham studied light, rainbows, irrigation and more. He attempted to produce a rainbow in his laboratory but was not able to. The creation of a rainbow was fully explained in the 13th century by al-Farisi in the Muslim world and Dietrich de Freiburg in Europe. So as you take a look at the Middle Eastern and North African cultures be sure to take a look at some of the amazing discoveries they made and knowledge they shared during the Golden Age of Islam. 



Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Month | Multicultural Kid Blogs


Welcome to the third annual Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Month series from Multicultural Kid Blogs!  Follow along all month long for great resources on teaching children about the heritage of this region, and link up your own posts below. Don't miss our series from last year and from 2015! You can also find even more resources on our North Africa and the Middle East Pinterest board:

August 4 Sand In My Toes on Multicultural Kid Blogs: 10 Fun Facts About the United Arab Emirates
August 8 A Crafty Arab: Jordan Craft Stick Flag Tutorial
August 15 Sand In My Toes: Wind Tower Craft (UAE)
August 17 All Done Monkey: MENA Countries Worksheets
August 18 Tiny Tapping Toes: Make Your Own Egyptian Sistrum
August 21 Biracial Bookworms on Multicultural Kid Blogs
August 23 Jeddah Mom: Decorate a Jambiya - Crafts for Kids
August 28 Crafty Moms Share
August 30 Creative World of Varya

Link Up Your Posts!