The Invention of Camera

The Invention of Camera

The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). This idea laid the foundation of the present day Camera.His experimental conclusions were that when the sunlight reached and penetrated the hole, it made a conic shape at the meeting point with the pinhole, and later formed another conic shape in reverse to the first one on the opposite wall in the dark room.‘Light issues in all directions opposite any body that is illuminated with any light [and of course, also opposite any self-luminous body]. Therefore when the eye is opposite a visible object and the object is illuminated with light of any sort, light comes to the surface of the eye from the light of the visible object.’ (10th-century Ibn al-Haytham from his ‘Book of Optics)

 

Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) wrote about naturally-occurring rudimentary pinhole cameras.For example, light may travel through the slits of wicker baskets or the crossing of tree leaves. (The circular dapples on a forest floor, actually pinhole images of the sun, can be seen to have  a bite taken out of them during partial solar eclipses opposite to the position of the moon's actual occultation of the sun because of the inverting effect of pinhole lenses.) Alhaitham published this idea in the "Book of Optics" in 1021 AD. He improved on the camera after realizing that the smaller the pinhole, the sharper the image (though the less light).

He provides the first clear description for construction of a camera obscura (Lat. dark chamber).A  pinhole camera is a camera without a lens and with a single small aperture – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and  projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box.The human eye in bright light acts similarly, as do cameras using small apertures. Up to a certain point, the smaller the hole, the sharper the image, but the dimmer the projected image. Optimally, the size of the aperture should be 1/100 or less of the distance between it and the projected image.

 

In Later stages, these discoveries led to the invention of the camera obscura, and Ibn Al-Haytham built the first camera, a camera obscura or pinhole camera, in history. He went on to explain that we see objects upright and not upside-down, as the camera does, because of the connection of the optic nerve with the brain, which analyses and defines the image.During his practical experiments, Ibn Al-Haytham often used the term al-Bayt al-Muthim, which was translated into Latin as camera obscura, or dark, private or closed room or enclosed space. Camera is still used today, as is qamara in Arabic which still means a private or dark room.Many of Ibn Al-Haytham’s works, especially his huge Book of Optics, were translated into Latin by the medieval scholar Gerard of Cremona. This has a profound impact on the 13th-century big thinkers like Roger Bacon and Witelo, and even on the 15th-century works of Leonardo da Vinci. Today, the camera has gone from the humble beginnings of Ibn-Al-Haytham’s dark front room, the qamara, to become a sophisticated digital process, while the study of optics has blossomed into a whole science covering lasers, optical sectioning of the human retina and researching red bioluminescence in jelly fish.

 

Further reading of other inventions of Muslim World:

Book : 1001 Inventions

 

Online Sources

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7810846.stm

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/how-islamic-inventors-changed-the-world-469452.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-01-29/world/muslim.inventions_1_hassani-inventions-muslim/3?_s=PM%3AWORLD

http://www.ibnalhaytham.com/discover/who-was-ibn-al-haytham/

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/1000_years_of_arabic_optics_to_be_a_focus_of_the_international_year_of_light_in_2015/#.VdvWxfmqqko

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