Thales of Miletus

(640? 546 B.C.)


    The philosophy and science - which were not originally separate start with Thales of Miletus. This occasion can be dated quite precisely by the fact that Thales forecast an eclipse that occurred in the year 585 B.C. Thales obtain this knowledge of predicting lunar eclipse with certainty and Solar eclipse with some probability from Babylonians. Note that neither Thales nor Babylonians knew the reason of eclipses. There is no reason to suppose that he added anything to what he learnt from Egyptian or Babylonian. On the other hand, according to Dogenes Laertius, Thales was born in the first year of the thirty-fifth Olympiad (640 B.C.), and his death occurred in the fifty-eighth Olympiad (548-545 B.C.).

    Thales of Miletus was a native of Miletus, in Asia Minor and according to Aristotle he was the founder of Milesian or Ionian (Eastern) school, and therefore founder of Greek philosophy. He is also classed as one of the Seven Wise Men. According to Thales water is the primal element or substance from which all things arose and of which they consist. The earth float upon water and by a process of thickening and thinning, water turned into all that we perceive. As Russell have said that the statement that everything is made of water is consider as a scientific hypothesis since a little while ago, the received view was that everything is made up of hydrogen, which is two third of water. Thales attained note as a scientific thinker because he discarded mythical explanations of things and asserted that a physical element, water, was the first principle of all things. The supremacy of the Greeks appears more clearly in mathematics and astronomy than in literature and philosophy. There was a story related to Thales, which shows what kinds of practical problems stimulated mathematical investigations. The story goes like this, one day the king of Egypt asked the Thales to find out the height of a pyramid. Thales waited for the time of day when his shadow was as long as he was tall; he then measured the shadow of the pyramid, which was of course equal to his height. In addition, Thales studied and solved the problem of finding the distance of a ship.