”Let there be a Year of Light”, UNESCO to launch International Year of Light 2015 to promote life and works of pioneering Muslim scientist Ibn Al-Haytham

VIENNA: With just days to go before the start of 2015, the International Year of Light (IYL 2015), a global initiative of a large consortium of scientific bodies together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is getting ready for a grand opening ceremony to be held on the 19-20 January 2015 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

UNESCO said that IYL 2015 ceremony will see the launch of 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham, a global campaign where UNESCO will partner with the science and cultural heritage organisation 1001 Inventions to announce a series of interactive exhibits, workshops and live shows illustrating the world of this pioneering scientist from the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation, Ibn al-Haytham – often referred to as the ‘father of modern optics’ – who was a pioneering polymath from Basra (in modern-day Iraq) who lived in the 10th century. He made significant advancements in optics, mathematics and astronomy, and helped lay the foundations of modern scientific method.

The IYL 2015 opening ceremony will introduce all key themes of the year, acting as inspiration for events worldwide during 2015 to raise awareness of the importance of light-based technologies in providing solutions to worldwide challenges in areas such as energy, education, communications and health.

On 20 December 2013, The United Nations (UN) General Assembly 68th Session proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015).

“Just as Issac Newton revealed the spectrum of colors that makes up white light, we must reveal to the world the importance of light in building a more sustainable and peaceful future. For this reason, 2015 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL). Taken forward under UNESCO’s leadership, IYL is a unique opportunity to raise global awareness of how light-based technologies can provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. These technologies have the potential to transform the 21st century as electronics did in the 20th century,” said UNESCO in a press release.

Over a thousand participants will converge on Paris for the two day event, and speakers and attendees will include international diplomats and decision-makers, Nobel laureates, CEOs, and science and industry leaders from across the globe. After high-level opening addresses by international political leaders, a series of keynote lectures, symposia and round-tables will cover areas of basic science, innovative lighting solutions for society, light pollution, emerging trends in photonics, the Einstein Centenary, the role of light-based technologies in addressing global challenges, light in art and culture, the history of science, and science policy.

Keynote speakers from the light science community will include Nobel laureates Ahmed Zewail, Steven Chu, Zhores Alferov, William Phillips and Serge Haroche, pioneering and inspiring scientists who will speak on a diverse range of topics: light and life, energy, telecommunications, and the fundamental physics of light-matter interactions. The programme will also include contributions by: Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi (President of the Pontifical Council for Culture); renowned Mexican architect Gustavo Avil?s; the CEO of Royal Philips Lighting Eric Rondolat; Harry Verhaar (President of the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association); Alessandro Farini (Expert on Human Vision and Art); Thanh-Nga Trinh Tran, (Vietnam Vascular Anomalies Center); Linda Wamune (SunnyMoney and SolarAid); Martin Aufmuth (from onedollarglasses.org); Illac Diaz (aliteroflight.org); Andrew Forbes representing the Photonics Initiative of South Africa; Zohra Ben Lakhdar (UNESCO L’Oreal Prize Winner); and many other leading scientists and representatives from international NGOs. The Opening Ceremony will also see leading science and cultural heritage organisation 1001 Inventions launch their accompanying international campaign to promote the life and works of the pioneering scientist from the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation, Ibn al-Haytham.

The programme will also feature several cultural and musical interludes, and the outside of the UNESCO Building in Paris will be lit by Finnish light artist Kari Kola with a display entitled “Light is Here” which will reflect the powerful elements of the Northern lights.

“I am pleased to partner with 1001 Inventions to launch the World of Ibn Al-Haytham Global Campaign, to promote light-science for the benefit of all,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “A ground-breaking scientist and a humanist from a thousand years ago, the life and work of Ibn Al-Haytham have never been as relevant as they are today.” IYL will commemorate the achievements of scientific figureheads, who paved the way ahead for humanity’s understanding of light: 1015 – Ibn Al-Haytham’s Book of Optics (In Arabic Kitab al-Manazir); 1815 – Augustin-Jean Fresnel and the wave nature of light; 1865 – James Clerk Maxwell and electromagnetic waves; 1915 – Einstein’s theory of general relativity, exploring light through space and time; 1965 – Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson’s discovery of cosmic microwave background, and Charles Kao’s pioneering development of fiber optics, which enabled transformative technologies such as broadband today.