Chapter 3 Ibn al-Haytham: between Mathematics and Physics

In: Mathematics and Physics in Classical Islam
Roshdi Rashed
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In his article “Ibn al-Haytham: between Mathematics and Physics”, Rashed explains, in a more detailed manner, the meaning of the combination between mathematics and physics that emerges in the works of Ibn al-Haytham. In astronomy, Ibn al-Haytham, having found contradictions in Ptolemy, established a totally geometrical celestial kinematics, independent of cosmological considerations and of Aristotelian dynamics. The result was a model of the apparent motion of the “seven planets” halfway between Ptolemy and Kepler. In optics, Ibn al-Haytham reformed the optics of Euclid and Ptolemy, which was a geometry of perception, and modified the doctrine of the Islamic Aristotelian philosophers of Islam, who considered the forms perceived by the eye as “totalities” transmitted by the objects under the effect of light. He separated the theory of vision from the theory of light and established experimentally that light propagates independently of vision from illuminated objects onto the eye in straight lines and, he assumed, with great speed. In so doing, he founded a totally geometrical optics. The advances he accomplished in astronomy and optics were similar: he mathematised these disciplines and combined this mathematisation with the ideas of the physical phenomena.

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