Thales of Miletus (ca.624 BC – ca.546 BC), was a philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor (Anatolia). Physicists consider him as the first physicist in history. His writings did not survive. The major source for Thales’ philosophy and science is Aristotle.
- He is considered as the founder of natural philosophy. He was one of the first persons in history to investigate the basic principles and the origin of substances of matter.
- He is credited with the development of the scientific method.
- He introduced geometry and astronomy to the Greek speaking world.
- He is credited with five theorems of elementary geometry.
- Thales was involved in the problems of astronomy and provided a number of explanations of cosmological events. His questioning approach to the understanding of heavenly phenomena was the beginning of Greek astronomy.
- He predicted an eclipse of the Sun on May 28, 585 BC, startling all of Ionia.
- From Eudemus of Rhodes we know that Thales studied in Egypt. He was intimately familiar with Egyptian and Chaldean wisdom traditions.
- Thales believed in the fundamental unity of all material things that is to be found behind their apparent diversity. He also regarded the world as alive and thus life and matter to be inseparable.
- Thales also discovered a method of measuring the distance to a ship at sea.
- Thales, according to Aristotle, asked what was the nature (Greek physis, Latin natura) of the object so that it would behave in its characteristic way.
- Thales had a profound influence on other Greek thinkers. Anaximander was a student of Thales. Early sources report that one of Anaximander’s more famous students, Pythagoras, visited Thales as a young man, and that Thales advised him to travel to Egypt to further his philosophical and mathematical studies.
Thales, being asked what was very difficult, he answered, “To Know Thyself.” Asked what was very easy, he answered, “To give advice.” To the question, what/who is God?, he answered, “That which has no beginning or no end.“