1001 Inventions and the world of Ibn al-Haytham
“If learning the truth is the scientist’s goal… then he must make himself the enemy of all that he reads.”
In 2015, UNESCO and 1001 Inventions were partners in a global campaign to celebrate the International Year of Light (IYL2015) and the scientific legacy of the remarkable 11th-century scientist Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (known in the west as Alhazen).
I worked with Ahmed Salim to help develop the story for an animated film about this Basra-born pioneer, a scientific thinker who was fascinated by the nature of light and vision. In one pivotal experiment, Ibn al-Haytham observed that light coming through a tiny hole into his darkened room travelled in a straight line and projected an image onto the opposite wall. He drew the conclusion that we can see because light enters our eyes, rather than through rays emerging from our eyes as many once believed.
Ibn al-Haytham was born during the golden age of Muslim civilisation amid advances in science, technology and medicine. Through his Book of Optics (Kitab al-Manazir) and its Latin translation, Ibn al-Haytham’s ideas influenced European scholars including those of the European Renaissance.
The animated film starred Omar Sharif in what would prove to be his last film project. Read the full cast and crew credits on IMDB.
Alongside the film, 1001 Inventions launched an Ibn Al-Haytham global educational initiative which engaged millions of people around the world with hands-on science events at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, New York Academy of Science and the United Nations in New York, the Royal Society in London, the Jordan Museum in Amman, the Berlin Science Week and in many other cities around the world.
In May 2019, 1001 Inventions took the venture to China for National Science Week, part of the “Belt and Road International Science-Popularization Platform”. Through presenting lesser-known stories from the history of science, such as this, 1001 Inventions aims to raise awareness of the remarkable scientific and cultural contributions from countries along the ancient Silk Road.