Islamic Scientist Study: Alhazan


Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham (965 – 1040 AD) was an Arab scientist, polymath, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher.  His speciality was optics and he showed accurately how the eye worked and used the focal point of magnification to make the fore-runner of the pin hole camera, called the camera obscura, proving his theory that light travels in straight lines.  He wrote the Book of Optics.

We watched a few You Tube videos about him.  The first is a fabulous overview of the Islamic medieval contribution to science and includes a very small amount on Alhazan.  This is a film made for the London Science museum and is really good:

The children read the following books:


They spent time playing with the 3D models found in the middle book:


I made sure the children understood exactly how the eye works by showing them this video:

We then pulled out our History of Science kit and began discovering all about the optics that Alhazan had understood so fully:


T11 played with different lens to see how the thickness affected the size of the letters in a newspaper:



And finally he made his very own camera obscura from the science set:

Everything required to make it was supplied in the kit
Everything required to make it was supplied in the kit

Can I just say how fantastic this was?  We spent ages looking at the world upside-down from the view at the back of the camera obscura.  This was such a cool project!  T11 had tried to make one of these twice before – once when we did astronomy and secondly during his current physics lesson and neither were successful.  This one worked a dream though, and to be honest almost made the price of the kit worth it!  If all the experiments are as easy to replicate and have such wonderful results I will be a very happy mummy.  Have a look at some of the images we managed to get:

T12 looking at the image of the other side of the room upside down
T12 looking at the image of the other side of the room upside down
And a close up
And a close up

We all really enjoyed studying science this way, because it somehow means much more when the findings are attached to a real person with a real life story.  T12 has chosen to give his presentation on Alhazan, which I am very much looking forward to.

Science Sunday  All Things Beautiful


  1. This is really cool! Isn’t it just great when experiments work?! We’ve had many frustrating experiences with experiments that don’t yield the expected results, so I truly appreciate it when things work! 🙂 Making the camera obscura isn’t an easy task so T12’s success with his is very impressive.

    Also thanks for all the wonderful links. You’ve saved me a tonne of work! 🙂

    1. I would really recommend the science kit so far. It is very well organised and clear.
      And yes, successful experiments and hands on activities increase ones enjoyment of science. Unsuccessful ones don’t!

  2. What a fabulous way of learning science! Thanks for all the links, I’m going to have my son watch them now. Have a great day!

  3. This is very useful, so thank you for posting. We’re doing middle ages at the moment and I think I might slip this in somehow.

  4. Love the science kit. T12 looks like he really enjoyed this one.
    I have come to love the story behind the idea. Biographies are a large part of our home school, so this is another one to add to the list.
    I am a little late in getting to this post. We have had one of those weeks:)

  5. Just catching up on your blog – you’ve been wonderfully prolific so far this year! This looks absolutely fab, and the way you’ve laid it out with all the videos makes it a complete lesson ready-to go – thank you! I made a pinhole camera when I was T’s age (I read about it in my grandparents’ encyclopaedias). Such fun.

    1. Thanks Lucinda. It’s a good way to learn science, I think. Better than our text book lessons that we fail to have. I’m a BAD homeschool mummy. Must do more science….must do more science…..

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