International Year of Light is launched in Paris

21 January 2015

The globally themed opening ceremony for the International Year of Light (IYOL) in Paris this week featured everything from a performance by Maori dancers to talks by Nobel laureates and speakers from international bodies with an interest in light.

Maori performers at the launch event for the International Year of Light
Credit: SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics


The two-day event at the UNESCO headquarters encompassed an art exhibition and illumination of the building to simulate the aurora borealis, the première of three musical compositions created for the IYOL-inspired film production Einstein’s Light, and a dance by Ngãti Rãnana London Maori Club.

There were messages of support from UN secretary- general Ban Ki Moon and UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, as well as a speech by CERN director-general Rolf-Dieter Heuer and a lecture by Steven Chu,  former US secretary of energy, on energy and climate change.

The key part that light plays in development – and especially in enabling children and young people to study after dark in areas such as rural Africa – was underlined by speakers including the education ministers of Ghana and South Africa and IOP honorary fellow Prof. Francis Allotey, president of the African Physical Society and vice-president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

A focal point for the celebrations in 2015 is the 1000th anniversary of the Book of Optics by Ibn Al-Haytham, a pioneer in the field who invented the camera obscura and was the first to show that light travels from an object to the eye and not vice versa. A statue of the muslim scholar was unveiled at the launch during a talk on the educational campaign “1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham” by the not-for-profit company 1001 Inventions.

The UK launch for IYOL will be held on 28 January and activities will take place throughout 2015.

• Read more about the international launch in Paris on the Physics World blog.

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