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PLaTS Seminar: Scott Bonham: The Greatest Scientist You Never Heard Of: Ibn al-Haytham and the Roots of Modern Science

When: Monday, May 16, 2022
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Samantha Westlake  

Group: Physics Learning and Teaching Seminar (PLaTS)

Category: Academic


Abstract: Contrary to how it is sometimes presented, modern science did not spring full-formed from nowhere in the seventeenth century.  Rather, it grew out of a long tradition of natural philosophy with roots in Classical Greek thought which was both transmitted and built upon by Arab and European scholars during the medieval period. In this talk I will trace that development with a focus on geometric optics, in particular Ibn al-Haytham’s grand synthesis of conflicting Greek theories of perception which was subsequently incorporated into medieval European thought.  Arguably the first experimental scientist and the father of geometric optics, the medieval Arab polymath Ibn al-Haytham is not widely recognized today in part due to historical racial/religious discrimination.  In this talk I will discuss how I incorporate the legacy of Ibn al-Haytham into my conceptual physics course as a means of exploring the nature of science and scientific argumentation, as well as identify some insights from the history of science into student difficulties in learning to ‘think scientifically.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Bonham studies the cultural context of science and the nature of scientific communication. This talk will trace the development of modern science from classical roots to a more modern form through the lens of Ibn al-Haytham’s work on geometric optics. In particular the talk will focus on how the idea of modern experimentation and scientific argumentation took form and where students may find difficulties in learning to “think scientifically”.

Speaker: Scott Bonham, Associate Professor, Western Kentucky University 

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