A Critical Edition of Ibn al-Haytham’s On the Shape of the Eclipse

The First Experimental Study of the Camera Obscura

  • Dominique Raynaud

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Dominique Raynaud
    Pages 7-27
  3. Dominique Raynaud
    Pages 29-127
  4. Dominique Raynaud
    Pages 129-161
  5. Dominique Raynaud
    Pages 163-210
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 211-308

About this book


This book provides the first critical edition of Ibn al-Haytham’s On the Shape of the Eclipse with English translation and commentary, which records the first scientific analysis of the camera obscura. On the Shape of the Eclipse includes pioneering research on the conditions of formation of the image, in a time deemed to be committed to aniconism. It also provides an early attempt to merge the two branches of Ancient optics—the theory of light and theory of vision.

What perhaps most strongly characterizes this treatise is the close interaction of a geometric analysis of light and experimental reasoning. Ibn al-Haytham conducted his experiments in a systematic way by varying all that could be changed: the shape and size of the aperture, the focal length of the camera obscura, the distance and shape of the celestial bodies. This way, he achieved a thorough understanding. This work represents a decisive step in both the history of optics and the application of the experimental method that was just as efficient in medieval Islam as today.


history of optics Archimedean analysis Utārid al-Ḥāsib Al-Khujandī pseudo-Euclid

Authors and affiliations

  • Dominique Raynaud
    • 1
  1. 1.PPLUniversité Grenoble Alpes PPLGrenoble Cedex 9France

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking