Thales – First Greek and Western philosopher and scientist


Thales of Miletos
(625/624 BC, Miletus, Asia Minor (Now Balat, Turkey) – 546/545 BC, Miletus, Asia Minor)
Nationality: Greece
Category: Scientists
Occupation: Philosophers
Unique distinction: First Greek and Western philosopher and scientist, one of the founders of Hylozoism and Pantheism, the founder of physical science and geometry. Ionian tradition, Milesian school, Naturalism and Monist school.


  1. All things are from water and all things are resolved into water.
  2. Nothing is more active than thought, for it travels over the universe, and nothing is stronger than necessity for all must submit to it
  3. Time is the wisest of all things that are; for it brings everything to light.
  4. Place is the greatest thing, as it contains all things.
  5. God is the most ancient of all things, for he had no birth.
  6. The world is wonderful because it is a creation of God.
  7. We live not, in reality, on the summit of a solid earth but at the bottom of an ocean of air.
  8. Who is happy? This is a person, who has a healthy body, is dowered with peace of mind and cultivates his talents.
  9. What is the most pleasant thing? To succeed. Believe you can and you’re halfway there.
  10. The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
  11. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
  12. Know thyself.

Achievements and contributions:

Social and professional position: Ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer.
The main contribution to (best known for): He is regarded as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, as the founder of the Milesian school and as the father of Western philosophy.

Contributions to philosophy and science:

Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor and one of the Seven Sages of Greece.
He is regarded as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, as the founder of the Milesian school and as the father of Western philosophy. Thales involved himself in many activities, taking the role of an innovator.
Founder of scientific thinking and methodology. Thales is known for introducing the concept of deductive reasoning. He believed that all knowledge could be derived from a few fundamental principles, which laid the foundations of scientific reasoning and methodology.
Prior to Thales, mythology had been used to explain the nature of the physical world.
He was the first philosopher to investigate the basic principles, and the question of the originating substances of matter and, therefore, as the founder of the school of natural philosophy.
Water is the first element and the basic principle. He proposed that water was the fundamental principle of the universe, the primary substance from which all things were derived. This first principle, governing everything can be regarded as the first exposition of universal law.
Pantheism. «All things are full of gods».
Thales’ monistic view of water leads him to animistic pantheism. Since water is the divine source of all living things and so all animate and inanimate things can be alive, then the whole world is full of gods.
Simultaneously he proposed a scientific approach, seeking natural rather than divine causes for natural events.
He proposed a scientific approach, seeking natural rather than divine causes for natural events.
Astronomy. Thales proposed answers to a number of questions about nature: the earth’s shape; its size; and the cause of earthquakes; the dates of the solstices; the size of the sun and moon. Once he predicted a solar eclipse which has been determined by modern methods to have been on May 28, 585 BC.
Thales was the first who assert that the moon shines with reflected light.
He believed that an eclipse of the Sun occurs when between it and the Earth is the Moon.
It is believed that Thales “Invented the globe”.
Mathematics. He is famous for his three theorems: If A, B and C are points on a circle where the line AC is the diameter of the circle (1), then the angle ABC is a right angle (2). The line drawn parallel to a side of a triangle intersecting the other two sides at distinct points divides them in the same ratio (3).
Thales, in order to facilitate the crossing of troops, designed the dam and let the river Halis on the new channel.
Major works: Some say that he left no writings, others that he wrote “On the Solstice”, “On the Equinox” and “Nautical Star-guide”.

Career and personal life:

Origin: Thales was born in Miletus in Greek Ionia on the western coast of Asia Minor (in what is today the Aydin Province of Turkey) His parents were Examyes and Cleobuline, Phoenician nobles. Thales was descended from noble Phoenicians who had settled in Miletus, a thriving Greek seaport. His mother bore a Greek name.
Education: He is traditionally supposed to have acquired his learning from Egypt. Thales may also have travelled to Babylon and studied geometry and astronomy.
Career highlights: It is reported that Thales was a merchant and travelled a lot. Consequently, he brought to Greece Eastern knowledge.

Personal life:

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. Thales said that he did not like the idea of having to worry about children. Nevertheless, probably he anxious for his family to adopt his nephew Cybisthus.
At the end of his life, Thales became so famous for his practical shrewdness and theoretical wisdom.
Thales was reproached because of his poverty, as though philosophy was no use. Somehow, through observation of the heavenly bodies, Thales concluded that there would be a large olive crop.
He raised a little capital while it was still winter, and paid deposits on all the olive presses in Miletus and Chios. When the appropriate time came there was a sudden rush of requests for the presses, he then hired them out on his own terms and so made a large profit, thus demonstrating that it is easy for philosophers to be rich, if they wish.
Socrates is reporting that he was 90 at his death.
Zest: Socrates told a story that once Thales was so intent upon watching the stars that he failed to watch where he was walking and fell into a well. A witty and pretty Thracian servant-girl made fun of him because, she said, he was wild to know about what was up in the sky but failed to see what was in front of him and under his feet.
According to legend, Thales calculated the Great Pyramid’s height, by measuring the pyramid’s shadow at the exact time when his own shadow appeared to be the same length as himself, thus ensuring that the pyramid’s shadow accurately represented its true height.