55 Facts About Thales


Thales of Miletus was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor.

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Thales is recognized for breaking from the use of mythology to explain the world and the universe, instead explaining natural objects and phenomena by offering naturalistic theories and hypotheses.

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Aristotle regarded him as the founder of the Ionian School of philosophy, and reported Thales' hypothesis that the originating principle of nature and the nature of matter was a single material substance: water.

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In mathematics, Thales used geometry to calculate the heights of pyramids and the distance of ships from the shore.

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Thales is the first known individual to use deductive reasoning applied to geometry by deriving four corollaries to Thales' theorem.

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Thales is the first known to whom a mathematical discovery has been attributed.

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Dates of Thales' life are not exactly known, but are roughly established by a few datable events mentioned in the sources.

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Diogenes Laertius quotes the chronicle of Apollodorus of Athens as saying that Thales died at the age of 78 during the 58th Olympiad and attributes his death to heat stroke while watching the games.

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Thales was probably born in the city of Miletus around the mid-620s BC.

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The ancient writer Apollodorus of Athens writing during the 2nd century BC, thought Thales was born about the year 625 BC.

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The later historian Diogenes Laertius, in his third century AD Lives of the Philosophers, references Herodotus, Duris, and Democritus, who all agree "that Thales was the son of Examyas and Cleobulina, and belonged to the Thelidae who are Phoenicians and amongst the noblest descendants of Cadmus and Agenor" who had been banished from Phoenicia and that Thales was enrolled as a citizen in Miletus along with Neleus.

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Encyclopedia Britannica concluded that Thales was most likely a native Milesian of noble birth and that he was certainly a Greek.

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Diogenes continues, by delivering more conflicting reports: one that Thales married and either fathered a son or adopted his nephew of the same name; the second that he never married, telling his mother as a young man that it was too early to marry, and as an older man that it was too late.

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Plutarch had earlier told this version: Solon visited Thales and asked him why he remained single; Thales answered that he did not like the idea of having to worry about children.

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Thales derived his assumption from this; and from the fact that the seeds of everything have a moist nature, whereas water is the first principle of the nature of moist things.

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Story, with different versions, recounts how Thales achieved riches from an olive harvest by prediction of the weather.

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Diogenes Laertius tells us that Thales gained fame as a counselor when he advised the Milesians not to engage in a symmachia, a "fighting together", with the Lydians.

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Thales then got the army across the river by digging a diversion upstream so as to reduce the flow, making it possible to cross the river.

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Thales described the position of Ursa Minor, and he thought the constellation might be useful as a guide for navigation at sea.

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Thales calculated the duration of the year and the timings of the equinoxes and solstices.

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Thales is additionally attributed with the first observation of the Hyades and with calculating the position of the Pleiades.

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Much as we would like to have a date on the seven sages, we must reject these stories and the tempting date if we are to believe that Thales was a native of Miletus, predicted the eclipse, and was with Croesus in the campaign against Cyrus.

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Thales received instruction from an Egyptian priest and was said to have had close contacts along with the priests of Thebes and their linear geometry.

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For example, rather than assuming that earthquakes were the result of supernatural whims, Thales explained them by hypothesizing that the Earth floats on water and that earthquakes occur when the Earth is rocked by waves.

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Aristotle posits the origin of Thales thought on matter generally containing souls, to Thales thinking initially on the fact of, because magnets move iron, the presence of movement of matter indicated this matter contained life.

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Thales, according to Aristotle, asked what was the nature of the object so that it would behave in its characteristic way.

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Thales was known for his theoretical and practical use of geometry, and is often considered the first person in the western world to have applied deductive reasoning to geometry .

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Thales understood similar triangles and right triangles, and what is more, used that knowledge in practical ways.

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Thales concluded that one could prove that all vertical angles are equal if one accepted some general notions such as: all straight angles are equal, equals added to equals are equal, and equals subtracted from equals are equal.

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Evidence for the primacy of Thales comes to us from a book by Proclus who wrote a thousand years after Thales but is believed to have had a copy of Eudemus' book.

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For he says that the method by which Thales showed how to find the distance of ships at sea necessarily involves this method.

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Pamphila says that, having learnt geometry from the Egyptians, he [Thales] was the first to inscribe in a circle a right-angled triangle, whereupon he sacrificed an ox.

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Hieronymus held that Thales was able to measure the height of the pyramids by using a theorem of geometry now known as the intercept theorem, .

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Thales thought the Earth must be a flat disk which is floating in an expanse of water.

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However, Thales was looking for something more general, a universal substance of mind.

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Dicks notes Herodotus does relate that Thales made use of a cycle to predict the eclipse, but maintains that "if so, the fulfillment of the 'prediction' was a stroke of pure luck not science".

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Less controversial than the position that Thales learnt Babylonian mathematics is the claim he was influenced by Egyptians.

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Dicks holds that since Thales was a prominent figure in Greek history by the time of Eudemus but "nothing certain was known except that he lived in Miletus".

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Thales argues that Thales, as a sage and world traveler, was exposed to many mythologies and religions, and while they all had some influence, his hometown Acheloios was the most essential.

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Thales is generally recognized as having brought something new to human thought.

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Thales added something to these different collections of knowledge to produce a universality, which, as far as writing tells us, was not in tradition before, but resulted in a new field.

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Once an answer has been arrived at, the next logical step is to ask how Thales compares to other philosophers, which leads to his classification .

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Thales was only trying to explain the unity observed in the free play of the qualities.

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Later scholastic thinkers would maintain that in his choice of water Thales was influenced by Babylonian or Chaldean religion, that held that a god had begun creation by acting upon the pre-existing water.

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Thales maintained that "All things are full of gods", and to understand the nature of things was to discover the secrets of the deities, and through this knowledge open the possibility that one could be greater than the grandest Olympian.

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Thales certainly handled the shell-fish of the Phoenicians that secreted the dye of imperial purple.

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Rather than seeing water as a barrier Thales contemplated the Ionian yearly religious gathering for athletic ritual .

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Thales called for the Ionian mercantile states participating in this ritual to convert it into a democratic federation under the protection of Poseidon that would hold off the forces of pastoral Persia.

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Thales would have seen that minerals could be processed from water such as life-sustaining salt and gold taken from rivers.

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Thales would've seen fish and other food stuffs gathered from it.

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Feldman points out that Thales held that the lodestone was alive as it drew metals to itself.

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The social significance of water in the time of Thales induced him to discern through hardware and dry-goods, through soil and sperm, blood, sweat and tears, one fundamental fluid stuff.

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Feldman points to the lasting association of the theory that "all whatness is wetness" with Thales himself, pointing out that Diogenes Laertius speaks of a poem, probably a satire, where Thales is snatched to heaven by the sun.

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Thales used "Ionian" in a broader sense, including the Athenian academics, who were not Pre-Socratics.

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Thales had a profound influence on other Greek thinkers and therefore on Western history.

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