Famous Islamic Scientists

The camera obscura was invented by Muslim physicist Alhazen for projecting images.

The camera obscura was invented by Muslim physicist Alhazen for projecting images. Images

by Contributing Writer

For centuries Islamic civilization has produced scientists responsible for advancements in technology, physics and medicine. Both the scientific method and modern algebra were pioneered by Islamic scientists working in the 10th century. Many of the discoveries attributed to Muslim scientists were made in a golden age of Islamic science that lasted for almost a millennium and laid the foundations for much of Western medicine and mathematics.

Scientific Method

Born in A.D. 965 in Cairo, Muslim physicist Alhazen was under house arrest when he conducted many of his most famous experiments. Alhazen chiefly worked with optics and mirrors, proving that light travels in a straight line from its source and inventing the first camera obscura, a device that projects enlarged images. Through his experimentation Alhazen is credited as the inventor of the scientific method, a standardized procedure by which a hypothesis is confirmed or rejected via experimental evidence.


Another pioneering Islamic scientist, al-Khwarizmi, invented the quadratic equation and subsequently modern algebra. In fact, in her book "Al-Khwarizmi: The Inventor of Algebra," author Corona Brezina recounts how al-Khwarizmi's name in Latin was mistranslated to "Algorismi," eventually becoming the modern "algorithm" used in reference to a mathematical equation solved by a series of steps. The mathematical genius also composed tables of planetary movements and completed several geographic works significant for how they treated longitude and latitude.


Ibn-e-Sina, known as Avicenna in the West, conducted extensive research on disease and different medicines in the 10th century. The Iranian epidemiologist's most famous work is the "Al-anun fit Tibb," which in translation was used as a primary reference by Western doctors for more than 4,000 years. Avicenna's notable contributions include the use of quarantine to halt the spread of sickness and the discovery of sexually transmitted diseases.

Other Islamic Scientists

Many Islamic scientists have improved the world's store of knowledge through the centuries, including astronomer al-Battani, whose study of planetary orbits greatly inspired Copernicus' model of the universe. Biologist al-Jahiz wrote "The Book of Animals," which established him as an Islamic forerunner of Darwin in evolutionary biology. Today these contributions are celebrated by institutions around the world like King Abdullah University's Museum of Science and Technology in Islam, located in Saudi Arabia.

About the Author

Taylor Echolls is an award-winning writer whose expertise includes health, environmental and LGBT journalism. He has written for the "Valley Citizen" newspaper, where his work won first- and second-place awards in sports and outdoor features from the Idaho Press Club. Echolls holds a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

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