ThalesIn existographies, Thales (c.624-546 BCM) (IQ:180|#92) (Cattell 1000:914) [RGM:84|1,500+] (Eells 100:62) (Stokes 100:1) (EvT:1|21+) (ACR:23) (GPhE:#) [CR:91], aka "Thales of Miletus", was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher (see: Greek philosophy), first Egyptian-trained scholar, the teacher of Euclid and Pythagoras (Ѻ), considered, according to Aristotle, as the “father of Greek philosophy”, the oldest of the "Ionian school", contemporarily famous for his prediction of the eclipse of the sun, noted generally for his “everything is water” philosophy, and is attributed as having been the first to make theoretical observations on amber (electricity) and loadstone (magnetism).
In c.560BC, Thales, as summarized by mathematics historian Florian Cajori (1893), was studying in Egypt and doing applied geometry as follows: [13]

“To Thales, of Miletus, one of the ‘seven wise men’ (Ѻ), and the founder of the Ionic school, falls the honor of having introduced the study of geometry into Greece. During middle life he engaged in commercial pursuits, which took him to Egypt. He is said to have resided there, and to have studied the physical sciences and mathematics with the Egyptian priests. Plutarch declares that Thales soon excelled his masters, and amazed King Amasis [reign: 570-526BC] (Ѻ) by measuring the heights of the pyramids from their shadows. According to Plutarch, this was done by considering that the shadow cast by a vertical staff of known length bears the same ratio to the shadow of the pyramid as the height of the staff bears to the height of the pyramid. This solution presupposes a knowledge of proportion, and the Ahmes (Ѻ) papyrus [1550BC] actually shows that the rudiments of proportion were known to the Egyptians. According to Diogenes Laertius, the pyramids were measured by Thales in a different way; viz by finding the length of the shadow of the pyramid at the moment when the shadow of a staff was equal to its own length. Probably both methods were used.”

Most report that he studied in Memphis, while in Egypt.

Thales, as summarized by Alexander Oparin (1936), asserted that living things developed from the amorphous slime under the influence of heat.

Water theory
Thales held "all is water" and that a flat earth floated on water. [2]

“The principle behind all things is water. For all is water and all goes back to being water.”
— Thales (c.570BC) (Ѻ)

There is, to note, no extant record, supposedly, as to why Thales chose water as his primary element. Some scholars have supposed that Thales’ water theory derives from Egyptian mythology. [7] In this case Memphis, where he studied, is where he would have learned the then-prevalent version of the Heliopolis creation myth (see: recension theory).

Aristotle, alternatively, reasoned that Thales choice of water as the primary element has to do with the seeming connection between “life” and water. [7]

Students of Thales include: Anaximander, Euclid, Pythagoras (Ѻ), and Eudemus. [5]

Amber and Loadstone
Thales noticed that amber attracts straw and that loadstone attracts metal, and therein ferret out the first rudimentary ideas on electromagnetism.
Electricity | Magnetism
Thales is said to have made some of the first observations on electricity and magnetism. Thales, is attributed with having been the first to note that when amber was rubbed, straw attracted to it. [5]

Thales, according to Ludwig Buchner, theorized that “spirit” is what gave amber its properties; which Buchner categorizes as discredited theory, along with phlogiston, electric, magnetic, and or heat fluid theories, and vitalism. [6]

An early Greek word for the sun - ηλεχτορ - pronounced "elector" - was used to describe amber, because of its sunshiny color; amber, subsequently, came to be called "electron" by the Greek classic writers. [4]

Thales, as discussed by Aristotle, also theorized that loadstone attracts iron because it has a soul — the prevailing view at the time being that movement of any kind indicated life, or a soul, or a god; the main source for this view is the following:

“The lodestone has soul [anima, psyche, spirit, or life] as it is able to move the iron.”
— Thales (c.590BC) general view; discussed by Aristotle in On the Soul (405a19) (Ѻ) [1]

Jennifer Hecht (2003), citing John Burnet (1930), summarizes this loadstone soul model as such: [11]

“Thales held that ‘all things are full of gods’. Aristotle also explained that Thales believed a magnet had a soul since it can move iron, and Aristotle supposed that this was what Thales had meant when he said that ‘soul is diffused throughout the whole universe’, meaning that that the forces that were gods were very much like the magnetic force.”

The Thales and amber association, to note, appears in DK A1 (Diogenes Laertius I, 240 and DK A3 (scholion on Plato, Republic 600A). (Ѻ)

The term "magnetism" and phenomena associated with it came to be called so because loadstones tended to come from the Greek island of Magnesia.

Gods | Soul
In c.600BC, Thales, as a student, traveled to Egypt and studied in Memphis, where he would have learned the creation myth of Memphis, as shown below:

1. Heliopolis creation myth | 3100BC
2. Memphis creation myth | 2800BC
3. Hermopolis creation myth | 2400 BC
4. Thebian creation myth | 2050 BC
5. Amarnan creation myth | 1300BC
6. Thebian creation myth / Canaan creation myth | 1200-400BC
7. Alexandrian creation myth | 300BC
8. Roman creation myth | 300AD

which taught that the god Ptah, the supreme god of Memphis, was conceived as a primary creative force that made the Nun, or primordial water; Thales supposedly said the following about water and god:

“All things are full of gods.”
— Thales (c.600BC), attributed

In 45BC, Cicero, in his On the Nature of the Gods, described Thales view on god as follows: [12]

“Thales said that water was the first principle, and that god was the mind that fashioned all things from water.”

Cicero comments on this:

“Can gods exist without feelings? Why did he associate mind with water, if the mind can exist independently without body?”

Peter Walsh, the 1997 English translator of Cicero, elaborated on this as follows: [12]

“The statement that ‘god was the mind that fashioned all things from water’ misleads; Thales will have argued not that mind was an external agent working on water, but an immanent and dynamic force within it.”

This god statement, however, has been interpreted (Ѻ) to mean that forces that were the god, or something to this effect, e.g. soul, is a thing akin to or an embodiment of the magnetic force. Thales asserted, supposedly, that the loadstone’s moving of the iron was caused by itself rather than by the intervention of some god. [4] Others have asserted that Thales model was atheistic:

Thales’ ocean had no room for Poseidon.”
Steven Weinberg (2001), Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries


Quotes | On
The following are related praise quotes:

Thales foretold an eclipse”
Heraclitus (c.495BC), Fragment 38 (Ѻ) (translator: John Brunet)

“Let those philosophers disappear, who attribute natural corporeal principles to the intelligence attached to matter, such as Thales, who refers everything to water, Anaximenes to air, the Stoics to fire, Epicurus to atoms, that is to say, to infinitely small objects that can neither be divided nor perceived.”
Augustine (c.420 ACM)
Thales (water philosophy)
A depiction of Thales water philosophy, according to which the earth was conceptualized flat (or a flat disc), which floated on water.

Thales asserted water to be the principle of things. For he saw that matter was principally dispensed in moisture, and moisture in water; and it seemed proper to make that the principle of things, in which the virtues and powers of beings, and especially the elements of their generations and restorations, were chiefly found. He saw that the breeding of animals is in moisture; that the seeds and kernels of plants (as long as they are productive and fresh), are likewise soft and tender; that metals also melt and become fluid, and are as it were concrete juices of the earth, or rather a kind of mineral waters; that the earth itself is fertilised and revived by showers or irrigation, and that earth and mud seem nothing else than the lees and sediment of water; that air most plainly is but the exhalation and expansion of water; nay, that even fire itself cannot be lighted, nor kept in and fed, except with moisture and by means of moisture. He saw, too, that the fatness which belongs to moisture, and which is the support and life of flame and fire, seems a kind of ripeness and concoction of the water.”
Francis Bacon (c.1620), De Principiis Atque Originibus (Ѻ)

Thales felt that there was a vital question to be answered relative to the beginning of things. He looked around him, and the result of his meditation was the conviction that moisture was the beginning. He was impressed with this idea by examining the constitution of the earth. There also he found moisture everywhere. All things he found nourished by moisture; warmth itself he declared to proceed from moisture; the seeds of all things are moist. Water when condensed becomes earth. Thus convinced of the universal presence of water, he declared it to be the beginning of things. Thales would all the more readily adopt this notion from its harmonizing with ancient opinions; such for instance as those expressed in Hesiod’s Theogony, wherein Oceanus and Thetis are regarded as the parents of all such deities as had any relation to nature. ‘He would thus have performed for the popular religion that which modern science has performed for the book of Genesis: explaining what before was enigmatical’ (Constant, 1833). It is this which gives Thales his position in philosophy. Aristotle calls him “father of Greek philosophy” it was he who made the first attempt to establish a physical beginning, without the assistance of myths. He has consequently been accused of atheism [see: implicit atheism] by modern writers.”
George Lewes (1867), The History of Philosophy: from Thales to Comte, Volume 1 [9]

Thales taught that the moon borrowed her light from the sun; that lunar eclipses resulted from the moon’s immersion in the earth’s shadow, that the earth was round, and he divided it into five zones; that the equinoctial line was cut obliquely by the ecliptic, and perpendicularly by the meridian; and he foretold a solar eclipse.”
Henry Bray (1910), The Living Universe [8]

Thales held that water is all—a statement that a modern mind tends to interpret as a metaphor in order to avoid attributing an obvious absurdity to a founder of philosopher.”
Eric Zencey (1983), “Entropy as Root Metaphor” [3]

Thales was the first thinker to try to account for the nature of the world without appealing to the wills and whims of anthropomorphic, Homerian gods. Aristotle mentions him, as does Herodotus [who] credits him with correctly predicting that there would be a solar eclipse in 585 during the battle between the Medes and the Lydians.”
Philip Stokes (2002), 100 Essential Thinkers [2]

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Thales:

“Of what is it that all things are made?”
— Thales (c.570BC) [14]

1. (a) Eells, W.C. (1962). “100 Greatest Mathematicians of All Time” (link), Mathematics Teacher, 7(55).
(b) Stokes, Philip. (2002). Philosophy 100: Essential Thinkers (pgs. 8-9). Enchanted Lion Books.
2. Stokes, Philip. (2002). Philosophy 100: Essential Thinkers (pgs. 8-9). Enchanted Lion Books.
3. Zencey, Eric. (1983). “Entropy as Root Metaphor”, Conference on Science, Technology, and Literature, Feb, Long Island University, New York; in: Beyond the Two Cultures: Essays on Science, Technology, and Literature (editors: Joseph Slade and Judith Lee) (§9:185-200), Iowa State University Press, 1900.
4. Fowler, Michael. (1997). “Historical Beginnings of Theories of Electricity and Magnetism” (Ѻ), University of Virginia, Physics.
5. Voldman, Steven H. (2004). ESD Physics and Devices (pg. 1). John Wiley & Sons.
6. Buchner, Ludwig. (1855). Force and Matter: Principles of the Natural Order of the Universe, with a System of Morality Based Thereon (15th German edition; 4th English edition) (pg. 12). London: Asher and Co, 1884.
7. Author. (2003). The Ancient World: Dictionary of World Biography, Volume 1 (editor: Frank Magill) (§:Thales of Miletus, pgs. 1121-28). Routledge.
8. Bray, Henry T. (1910). The Living Universe (pg. 138). Truro Publishing Co., 1920.
9. (a) Constant, Benjamin. (1833). Roman polytheism: Considered in its Relationship with Philosophy (Du polythéisme romain: considéré dans ses rapports avec la philosophie) (pg. 167). Bechet.
(b) Lewes, George. (1867). The History of Philosophy: from Thales to Comte, Volume 1 (pg. 7). Publisher.
10. (a) McFadden, Johnjoe. (2000). Quantum Evolution: How Physics Weirdest Theory Explains Life’s Biggest Mystery (pg. 7). W.W. Norton.
(b) Johnjoe McFadden – Wikipedia.
11. (a) Burnet, John. (1930). Early Greek Philosophers (pg. 140). Black.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 4). HarperOne.
12. Cicero. (45BC). The Nature of the Gods (Introduction, translation, and notes: Patrick Walsh) (Thales, pgs. 12, 152). Oxford University Press, 1998.
13. Cajori, Florian. (1893). A History of Mathematics (pgs. 15-16). American Mathematical Society, 1999.
14. Kirby, Richard; Withington, Sidney; Darling, Arthur; and Kilgour, Frederick. (1956). Engineering in History (pg. 42). Courier, 1990.

Further reading
● Laertius, Diogenes. (c.230). Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (TOC) (txt) (S2.22-43:Thales). Publisher.
● Clodd, Edward. (1897). Pioneers of Evolution from Thales to Huxley: with an Intermediate Chapter on the Causes of the Arrest of Movement (Ѻ)(pdf) (pg. xii). D. Appleton and Co.

External links
Thales – Wikipedia.

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