It’s hard to imagine a world without photography. Billion dollar companies like Instagram and Canon are based on the idea of capturing light from a scene, creating an image from it, and replicating that image. But doing so is impossible without the trailblazing work of the 11th century Muslim scientist, Ibn al-Haytham, who established the field of optics and described how the first cameras work.
Working in the imposing city of Cairo in the early 1000s, Ibn al-Haytham was one of the greatest scientists of all time. To control scientific advancements, he developed the scientific method, the basic process by which all scientific research is conducted. When he was put under house arrest by the Fatimid ruler al-Hakim, he had the time and skill to study how light works. His research partly focused on how the pinhole camera worked. Ibn al-Haytham was the first scientist to realize that when a tiny hole is put onto the side of a lightproof box, rays of light from the outside are projected through that pinhole into the box and onto the back wall of it. He understood that the smaller the pinhole (aperture), the sharper the image quality, giving him the ability to build cameras that were extremely accurate and sharp when capturing an image.
Ibn al-Haytham’s discoveries regarding cameras and how to project and capture images led to the modern development of cameras around the same concepts. Without his research into how light travels through apertures and is projected by them, the modern mechanisms inside everyone’s cameras would not exist.