Thales of Miletus

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From Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor, Thales was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher. The phrase “know thyself” was carved on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and is attributed to Thales, one of the Seven Sages and key characters in the history of Ancient Greece. He is widely regarded as the first Greek philosopher since he abandoned the use of mythology to explain the universe in favor of natural philosophy. As a result, he is recognized as the one who first applied logical reasoning, science, and mathematics.

Early life of Thales of Miletus

  • Thales was from Miletus, a commercial city located at the mouth of the Maeander river, as is well known.
  • Although Thales’s exact dates of birth and death are unknown, they can be generally determined by a few datable events described in the sources. Thales foresaw a solar eclipse in 585 BC, according to the historian Herodotus, who was writing in the fifth century BC.
  • According to the chronicle of Apollodorus of Athens, which was published in the second century BC, Thales was born around the year 625 BC, assuming that one’s acme happened at the age of 40.
  • Thelidae are Phoenicians and among the noblest descendants of Cadmus and Agenor, who were exiled from Phoenicia. Thales was enrolled as a citizen at Miletus with Neleus. Thales was the son of Examyas and Cleobulina.

Travels of Thales of Miletus

  • Thales is thought to have learnt geometry while visiting Egypt, according to a number of ancient sources. Thales is thought to have been to Egypt since Miletus maintained a permanent settlement there called Naucratis. It is also claimed that Thales had close ties to the Theban priests who taught him or even that he taught them geometry. Thales might have learned about Egypt from reports of others, even though he had never been there.
  • Another typical assignment of travel for a mathematically inclined philosopher is Babylonia, which was the other mathematically advanced ancient culture before the Greeks, aside from Egypt. Josephus, at least one ancient historian, asserts Thales traveled to Babylonia.

Theories and works of Thales of Miletus

Water is the arche

  • Thales is known for proposing that water is the fundamental or primary substance (arche) from which everything in the natural world originates. This concept represents one of the earliest attempts in Western philosophy to explain the origin of the physical universe in terms of a single, underlying substance.
  • Thales’ belief that water is the arche was a departure from earlier mythological and religious explanations for the natural world and marked the beginning of rational and scientific inquiry into the nature of reality. It’s considered a foundational idea in the history of philosophy and science.

Mathematics

  • In addition to being credited with introducing geometry to Greece, Thales is credited with being the first Westerner to apply deductive reasoning to geometry, making him the West’s “first mathematician.” The first definition of a number in the West is attributed to him: it is a “collection of units,” and it “follows the Egyptian view.”
  • Proclus, who lived a thousand years after Thales but is said to have acquired a copy of Eudemus’s lost History of Geometry (fourth century BC), provides the proof for Thales’ superiority. In his writings, Proclus claimed that Thales was the first to travel to Egypt and introduce the Egyptian study of mathematics to Greece. He also claimed that Thales “himself discovered many propositions and disclosed the underlying principles of many others to his successors, in some cases his method being more general, in others more empirical.”

Astronomy

  • Thales was a renowned astronomer who is credited with determining the location of Ursa Minor in antiquity. He believed the constellation may be helpful as a navigational aid for ships. He determined the length of the year and the dates of the solstices and equinoxes. He is also responsible for determining the Pleiades’ position.
  • According to Plutarch, Thales is credited with writing the Astronomy, a book that is still in existence today (about AD 100). It was written in poetry. On the Solstice and On the Equinox, according to some, and On the Solstice, according to others. He is also credited with creating the Nautical Star-guide, though this was debatable even in ancient times. He left no writing behind that has survived. The writings of Thales, according to Lobon of Argus, totaled 200 lines.

Engineering

  • In addition to astronomy, Thales also worked on engineering and other practical uses of mathematics. Herodotus also claims that Croesus dispatched his troops to the Persian realm. He came to a stop at the Halys River and was then unbridged.
  • The army was then successfully crossed by Thales by creating a diversion upstream to lessen the flow and enable the crossing. Herodotus claimed that the majority of Greeks held Thales responsible for changing the course of the Halys River in order to aid King Croesus’ military campaigns, although he himself had his doubts.[26] Plato honors Thales alongside Anacharsis, who is recognized as the creator of the anchor and the potter’s wheel.

Death

One account of his death, mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius in his work “Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” suggests that Thales died while attending the Olympic Games in the city of Olympia. According to this account, he was watching a gymnastic competition and, engrossed in his observations of the stars and the sky, he failed to notice a well in front of him. Thales is said to have fallen into the well and subsequently died as a result.

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