Born around a thousand years ago in present day Iraq, Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (known in the West by the Latinized form of his first name “Alhazen”) was a pioneering scientific thinker who made important contributions to the understanding of astronomy and mathematics as well as vision, optics and light. al-Haytham was born in 965 CE in Basra. However, he spent most of his life around the Fatimid Caliphate in Cairo, and died there in 1040 CE. His first project? He proposed to the Caliph a hydraulic project to improve regulation of the flooding of the Nile, and his method included an early attempt at building a dam at the present site of the Aswan Dam!
To have food and shelter, al-Haytham tutored various nobility while writing treatises on subjects that interested him. Among other things, he was the first to explain that vision occurs when light bounces on an object and then is directed to one’s eyes, he is considered the first theoretical physicist, and he began the mathematics to connect algebra and geometry.
Miniature bakers and brewers from an Egyptian tomb (the Tomb of Meketre near Thebes), ca. 1900 BCE. These figures were found in the wreckage of a tomb that had otherwise been looted, and the bakery and brewery were “protected” by a miniature guard.