In the catalogue of the collection of instruments of the Institute for the History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences, an apparatus is mentioned for the observation of the reflection of light. The idea of the apparatus is brought forward by Ibn al-Haytham, the eleventh-century scholar who has been praised for his breakthroughs in optics as he was the first scientist who made big steps in this field since Ptolomy. The apparatus gives experimental proof of the law of reflection. In his tract on optics, Ibn al-Haytham provided his mathematical proof. The apparatus covers the basic configuration of the experiment. In his mathematics, he dealt with all kinds of situations, as I mentioned in 2019. His predecessors limited themselves to the easy case where the eye and the source of light are at the same distance of the center of a cylindrical mirror. Ibn al-Haytham solved the far more difficult general case where the light and eye are not at the same distance of the center, using a mix of practical experiments, conic sections, and rigorous mathematical proofs.
The Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam exhibits a precious new-build apparatus. Experiments with this replica were successful. One clearly sees the rays of light and the reflection of these rays in all kind of mirrors (flat, conical, spherical, etc..).
My paper discusses the mathematical and experimental works of Ibn al-Haytam and presents a lesson series. My aim is to develop a hands-on classroom lesson series using a low-cost 3D-printed apparatus to bring the optics of Ibn al-Haytham alive. The story is also about the advanced use of mathematics by Ibn al-Haytham, which goes far beyond high school mathematics. In my lecture, I would like to address the important role of the optics of Ibn al-Haytham and present an outline of that lesson series. Afterward, in a workshop, the apparatus and the lesson series can be demonstrated.
Design of our prototype
Our design is ready, waiting for a first prototype.
Illustrations are from the catalogue of the collection of instruments of the Institute for the History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences.
Our experiment proves that this setup of the apparatus does work. Next step is to develop a low cost reliable 3D printed version of this apparatus that is suitable for classroom demonstrations. Light source will be a cellphone! So every student can do this experiment with his own device!