We live in a scientific age. Millions of young people study science, thousands of universities teach it and hundreds of publications relate it. We even have a cable channel dedicated exclusively to his wonders. We are steeped in technology rooted in your discoveries. But what is science and who was its first practitioner?
Science is the study of the physical world, but it is not just a topic, a topic, a field of interest. It is a discipline – a research system that adheres to a specific methodology – the scientific method. In its basic form, the scientific method consists of seven steps:
2) statement of a problem or question;
3) formulation of a hypothesis, or a possible answer to the problem or question;
4) testing the hypothesis with an experiment;
5) analysis of the results of the experiment;
6) interpretation of the data and formulation of a conclusion;
7) publication of the findings.
One can study phenomena without adhering to the scientific method, of course. The result, however, is not science. It is pseudoscience or junk science.
Throughout history, many people in many parts of the world have studied nature without using the scientific method. Some of the first people to do so were the ancient Greeks. Scholars like Aristotle made many observations on natural phenomena, but they did not test their ideas with experiments. Instead, they relied on logic to back up their findings. As a result, they often came to the wrong conclusions. Centuries later, scholars exposed the errors of the Greeks using the scientific method.
Perhaps the most famous debunking of Greek beliefs occurred in 1589 when Galileo Galilei challenged Aristotle’s notions about falling bodies. Aristotle had stated that heavy bodies fall at a faster rate than light bodies. His claim was logical but not proven. Galileo decided to test Aristotle’s hypothesis, legend has it, by firing cannonballs of different weights from a balcony of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He released the balls simultaneously and found that neither of them was running ahead of the other. Rather, they rushed towards the ground together and hit the ground at the same time. Galileo also conducted experiments in which he rolled balls of different weights down slopes in an attempt to discover the truth about falling bodies. For these and other experiments, Galileo is considered by many to be the first scientist.
However, Galileo was not the first person to conduct experiments or follow the scientific method. European scholars had been conducting experiments for three hundred years, ever since a British-born Franciscan monk named Roger Bacon advocated experimentation in the 13th century. In the fifth of your Opus Magus Bacon challenges ancient Greek ideas about vision and includes several experiments with light that include the seven steps of the scientific method.
Fifth part of Opus Magus However, it is not an original work. It is a summary of a much longer work entitled By Aspectibus (The optics). Bacon follows the organization of By Aspectibus and he repeats his experiments step by step, sometimes even word for word. objective By Aspectibus it is not an original work either. It is the translation of a book written in Arabic entitled Kitab al-Manazir (Optics Book). Written around 1021, Kitab al-Manazir predates Roger Bacon’s summary by 250 years. The author of this pioneering book was a Muslim scholar named Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham.
Born in Basra (located in what is now Iraq) in 965, Ibn al-Haytham, known in the West as Alhazen or Alhacen, wrote more than 200 books and treatises on a wide range of subjects. He was the first person to apply algebra to geometry, founding the mathematical branch known as analytical geometry.
Ibn al-Haytham’s use of experimentation was a consequence of his skeptical nature and his Muslim faith. He believed that human beings have flaws and that only God is perfect. To discover the truth about nature, he reasoned, the universe had to be allowed to speak for itself. “The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them,” Ibn al-Haytham wrote in Doubts about Ptolemy, “but the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gets from them, the one who submits to discussion and demonstration.”
To test his hypothesis that “lights and colors do not mix in air”, for example, Ibn al-Haytham devised the world’s first camera obscura, he observed what happened when light rays crossed at its aperture and recorded the results. This is just one of dozens of “true proofs” or experiments included in Kitab al-Manazir.
By insisting on the use of verifiable experiments to test hypotheses, Ibn al-Haytham established a new system of research, the scientific method, and earned a place in history as the first scientist.