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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Alhazen"

Alhazen [Astro*Index]


(965?-1038) Arabian physicist. Born at Basra (Al Basra, Iraq), died at Cairo, Egypt.

He made the wild claim that he could build a machine that would control the flooding of the Nile, thus attracting the attention of the Egyptian Caliph al-Hakim, who hired him for that task, with the stipulation that the device was to be built at once and that its inventor would suffer a complex, painful death should he fail. This threat caused Alhazen to feign insanity until the death of the madman al-Hakim, in 1021. Working during `sane' periods, Alhazen interests were directed to the field of Optics, where he made major improvements over the clumsy efforts of Hero and Ptolemy. He worked on the reflection and refraction of light, focusing of light by lenses, constructed a pinhole camera, and parabolic mirrors (used extensively in modern telescopes). Further progress in Optics did not occur until his work was translated into Latin (during the 16th century) and found its way into the hands of Kepler.

See also:
♦ Kepler, Johannes


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine