The Influence of Ibn al-Haytham on Kamal al-Din al-Farisi

by Saira Malik Published on: 17th June 2011

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This is a very short note summarizing the lecture presented by Dr Saira Malik in the Muslim Heritage Awareness Group (MHAG) meeting organized by FSTC at the Royal Society in London on March 30, 2011. Dr Malik focused on the influence of Ibn al-Haytham's Book of Optics on the work of Kamal al-Din al-Farisi in his Kitab Tanqih al-Manazir, which is in form and content an original recension of Ibn al-Haytham's work.


Dr Saira Malik*

This presentation focused on the influence of Ibn al-Haytham’s Kitab al-Manazir (The Book of Optics) on the work of Kamal al-Din al-Farisi (d. ca 1319 CE). Kamal al-Din used The Optics as a starting point to compose his own work Tanqih al-Manazir (Recension of the Optics), a work in which he presents a summary, revision and elaboration of Ibn al-Haytham’s treatise. It is clear on analysis of Kamal al-Din’s work that the principal influence that Ibn al-Haytham had on Kamal al-Din was in terms of methodology: the imperative to use both physical and mathematical analysis. Unlike in the Latin tradition of the history of ideas, where Ibn al-Haytham’s work was widely circulated, Kamal al-Din’s work is the only known sustained study of Ibn al-Haytham’s The Optics in the Arabic tradition.

See also Dr Saira Malik Kamal al-Din Abu al-Hasan (or al-Hasan) al-Farisi.

Figure 1: Diagram from Kamal al-Din al-Farisi’s great work Kitab Tanqih al-Manazir li-dhawi al-absar wa-‘l-basa’ir in which he edited the famous drawing of the nervous system from Kitab al-Manazir of Ibn al-Haytham. Source: Tanqîh al-Manazir, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, Ahmed III, MS 3340, folio 16a.

In this short bio-bibliography of Kamal al-Din al-Farisi, Dr Saira Malik presents succinctly the life and work of one of the most original scientists of the Islamic tradition. The author of Tanqih al-Manazir was indeed a prominent physicist, mathematician, and scientist of the early 14th century, and an original reader and commentator of Ibn al-Haytham’s optics.

Figure 2: Diagram of the eye in Kamal al-Din al-Farisi’s Kitab Tanqih al-Manazir. Source: Tanqîh al-Manazir, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, Ahmed III, MS 3340, folio 25b.


1. Articles on Al-Farisi, Ibn al-Haytham and optics on

2. Further readings

  • Malik, Saira. Technical Terminology in Medieval Arabic Science: The Case of Kamal al-Din al-Farisi. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge. Unpublished PhD thesis, 2008.
  • Sameen Ahmed Khan, “Arab Origins of the Discovery of the Refraction of Light“, in Optics and Photonics News, October 2007, pp. 22–23.
  • Nader El-Bizri, ‘Ibn al-Haytham et le problème de la couleur’, Oriens-Occidens: Cahiers du centre d’histoire des sciences et des philosophies arabes et médiévales, C.N.R.S. Vol. 7 (2009), pp. 201-226.
  • Nader El-Bizri, “Ibn al-Haytham”, in Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, eds. Thomas F. Glick, Steven J. Livesey, and Faith Wallis. New York/London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 237-240.
  • Nader El-Bizri, “Optics”, in Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, ed. Josef W. Meri. New York/London: Routledge, 2005, Vol. II, pp. 578-580.
  • Nader El-Bizri, “Al-Farisi, Kamal al-Din,” in The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Islamic Philosophy, ed. Oliver Leaman. London/New York: Thoemmes Continuum, 2006, Vol. I, pp. 131-135.
  • J. J. O’Connor and E. F. Robertson, “Kamal al-Din Abu’l Hasan Muhammad Al-Farisi“, November 1999.
  • A G Agargün and C R Fletcher, “Al-Farisi and the fundamental theorem of arithmetic”, Historia Mathematica, 21 (2) (1994), pp. 162-173.
  • R. Rashed, “Le modèle de la sphère transparente et l’explication de l’arc-en-ciel : Ibn al-Haytham – al-Farisi”, Revue d’histoire des sciences 22 (1970), pp. 109-140.

* Cardiff University.

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