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ISLAMIC Astrology And Astronomy

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Author Topic: ISLAMIC Astrology And Astronomy  (Read 8099 times)
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« Reply #45 on: May 18, 2009, 09:33:24 am »

Another subject allied to astronomy that deeply interested Muslim scientists - and to which they made . important contributions - was optics. Thus Newton's Optics, published in 1704, had a long history of experimentation behind it. Classical theories of vision held that sight was the result of rays emanated from the eyes, rather than the reflection of light from the object viewed. It was Ibn al-Haytham who broke with this classical theory and developed a theory, with mathematical proof, in accord with the facts. His work with the camera obscura and discovery of the mathematical principles behind the phenomenon of the rainbow were important steps in the development of optical instruments - though an explanation of the colors of the rainbow had to wait for Newton.

Other Muslim scientists also made important contributions to this subject, including the famous al-Biruni. One of the scientists connected with the Maragha observatory, Kamal al-Din al-Farisi, wrote an important commentary on Ibn al-Haytham's work on optics, in which he gives the results of a fascinating series of experiments with the camera obscura.

Men like these would have been fascinated at the idea of photographing the earth from outer space, and with the theories that make such achievements possible - theories that are in some cases based on observations they themselves originated. It is thus peculiarly fitting that an Arab Muslim should take part in a mission in the heavens that so interested and perplexed the scientists of the Middle Ages to whom we all owe so much.

This article appeared on pages 4-7 of the January/February 1986 print edition of

Saudi Aramco World.

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Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for January/February 1986 images.
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