(July 1, 965 – March 6, 1040)
Alhazen Ibn al-Haytham was a superb polymath: an illustrious pacesetter who illuminated the paths of those who came after him. He is regarded as ingenious icon across the Islamic world. Medieval scholars nicknamed him Ptolemaeus Secundus (which literally translates to “Second Ptolemy”). However, he was Claudius Ptolemy’s superior in every aspect of science and mathematics. His works spanned across a wide range of maths, physics and philosophy. And they influenced great European scientists such as Roger Bacon, Regiomontanus, Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Alhazen is irrefragably the greatest and the most influential scientist of the Middle Ages. His Book of Optics was panegyrized as the most important work on mathematical physics before Newton’s Principia Mathematica emerged more than half-a-millennium later. He also advanced other areas such as: astronomy, geometry, algebra, and arithmetic. Galileo Galilei, Marin Mersenne and René Descartes all borrowed ideas from his works. The same is true for Omar Khayyam and his protégé: Abu al-Fath al-Khazini. As an engineer, Alhazen was entrusted with the task of remedying an overflowing River Nile during the reign of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (Egypt’s 6th Fatimid Caliph). Although most of his works were lost, those that survived indicated that he foraged into fields as diverse as theology, literature, agriculture, geodesy, mechanics and medicine. For his role in bolstering science, both the 32-kilometer-wide Alhazen lunar crater and the 59239 Alhazen asteroid were dedicated to him. And in 2015, (which marked his 1050th birth anniversary), the UNESCO commemorated him as “Father of Optics”.