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Alhazen
Unsung Hero

The Scientific Method Man

Observe. Hypothesize. Experiment. Revise. Repeat. The scientific method is the foundation upon which researchers build. The man who laid the groundwork for it, however, is all but forgotten in the West.

Born in the mid-10th century in what is now Iraq, Ibn al-Haytham, known to English Speakers as Alhazen, was a man of endless curiosity. At a time when the Arabic-speaking world was the epicenter of scientific inquiry, Alhazen was one of its brightest stars.

He wrote more than 100 books on physics, mathematics and astronomy, among other fields, and is believed to be the first to explain how our brains create the illusion of the moon appearing larger near the horizon. His pioneering work on optics inspired the likes of Roger Bacon and Johannes Kepler centuries later. But Alhazen's creation of the scientific method is his most far-reaching acheivment.

Known for developing theories based on experimentation and data collection rather than abstract thought, Alhazen stressed the need to test results - especially those considered canon, as he wrote in his Doubts Against Ptolemy:

"A person who studies scientific books with a view of knowing the real facts ought to turn himself into an opponent of everything he studies; he should thoroughly assess its main as well as its margin parts, and oppose it from every point of view and all its aspects. … If he takes this course, the real facts will be revealed to him."

Alhazen's advice can be seen in action today around the world, from middle school science fairs to the Large Hadron Collider.

- Gemma Tarlach

Alhazen
Unsung Hero
The Scientific Method Man