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Pioneers of another sort

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By Kirsten Peters

Sometimes it pays to spend 10 years in detention. Not that a person would ever want that to happen, but if it did — could you put the time to good use?

That’s a question I’ve asked myself. I’ve also asked my students exactly the same thing. The value of a good high school or college education, I say to them, is that it should give you the tools to use time like that well. What would you do with it?

One thousand years ago an Arab man named Ibn al-Haytham found himself under house arrest in Cairo. That far back ago in time, we don’t know much of the specifics of Ibn al-Haytham’s life. But we do know he was a towering giant of an intellectual in his day.  

If you give a thinking person 10 years to think, don’t be surprised if there are some powerful results in the end. In Ibn al-Haytham’s case, a good argument can be made that the 10-year gap in his life was quickly followed by the release of his major book on optics. That book was pivotal to our lives today because optics was hardly the only issue it addressed.


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