Ibn al-Haytham (965-1039 CE), also known in Europe by the Latin names Alhacen or Alhazen, is one of the most illustrious figures in the history of science in mediaeval Islam.
Ibn al-Haytham spent many years of his life in Cairo, and was one of the most accomplished scientists at that time. His most significant contributions were in the fields of optics, astronomy, mathematics and medicine, and he composed no less than forty-four treatises on these and other subjects. Many of these treatises were produced from a modest room in the university-mosque of al-Azhar.
Ibn al-Haytham’s greatest and most celebrated work is the Kitab al-Manazir The Book of Optics), a comprehensive text on optics and vision which had a strong impact and lasting influence upon European scientific thought. Indeed, it is largely on the basis of this work that George Sarton describes him as “the greatest Muslim physicist and one of the greatest students of optics of all times.” The first Latin edition, published in Basle in 1572 under the title Opticae Thesaurus, is exhibited.