A. I. Sabra

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A. I. Sabra
Native name
عبد الحميد إبراهيم صبرة
Abdelhamid I. Sabra

(1924-07-08) July 8, 1924 (age 95)
DiedDecember 18, 2013(2013-12-18) (aged 89)
Other namesBashi
CitizenshipEgypt, United States of America
Alma mater
ChildrenAdam Sabra
AwardsGeorge Sarton Medal (2005)
Scientific career
FieldsHistory of science
ThesisTheories Of Light from Descartes To Newton (1955)
Doctoral advisorKarl Popper

Abdelhamid I. Sabra (1924-2013) was a professor of the history of science specializing in the history of optics and science in medieval Islam. He died December 18, 2013. Sabra provided English translation and commentary for Books I-III[1] of Ibn al-Haytham's seven book Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), written in Arabic in the 11th century.

Sabra received his undergraduate degree at the University of Alexandria. He then studied philosophy of science with Karl Popper at the University of London, where he received a PhD in 1955 for a thesis on optics in the 17th century. He taught at the University of Alexandria 1955-62, at the Warburg Institute 1962-72, and at Harvard University from 1972 until he retired in 1996.

In his article on "The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam", he argued, against the theories of Pierre Duhem, that Islamic cultures did not passively receive and preserve ancient Greek science, but actively "appropriated" and modified it.[2]

In 2005 he was awarded the Sarton Medal for lifetime achievement in the history of science by the History of Science Society.[3]

Select publications[edit]

  • 1954. "A Note on a Suggested Modification of Newton's Corpuscular Theory of Light to Reconcile it with Foucault's Experiment of 1850." British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 5, pp. 149–51.
  • 1967 Theories of Light from Descartes to Newton, (Oldbourne), (reprint Cambridge University Press, 1981), 363 pages.
  • 1984. "The Andalusian Revolt Against Ptolemaic Astronomy: Averroes and al-Bitrûjî." pp. 233–53 in Everett Mendelsohn, ed. Transformation and Tradition in the Sciences: Essays in honor of I. Bernard Cohen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1987. "The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam." History of Science 25, pp. 223–43.
  • 1996. "Situating Arabic Science: Locality versus Essence," Isis, 87, pp. 654–670 (reprinted in Michael H. Shank, ed., The Scientific Enterprise in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 215–31).


  1. ^ Sabra, A. I. (1989). The Optics of Ibn al-Haytham. Books I–II–III: On Direct Vision. London: The Warburg Institute, University of London. ISBN 0-85481-072-2.
    • Sabra also produced an Arabic edition of books IV-V: The Optics of Ibn al-Haytham. IV-V: On Reflection and Images Seen by Reflection. Two volumes: I: Text, Introductions, Concordance Tables; II: Apparatus, Diagrams, Appendices, Analytical Index, Plates. 760pp. Kuwait: The National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, 2002.
  2. ^ History of Science 25, pp. 223–43
  3. ^ "The Society: The George Sarton Medal". Archived from the original on September 22, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2011.

External links[edit]