Who was Thales Of Miletus?
We begin our journey with the Ancient Greeks who were the fathers of physics. A city called Miletus was home to several Greek philosophers who made significant contributions to physics. One such philosopher by the name of Thales was the first and is widely considered the most important of them all. Thales lived in Miletus or what is now modern-day Turkey from 624 BCE to 546 BCE. He was a descendant of a Phoenician noble family. Sadly none of his writings survived the test of time. Therefore, most of his accomplishments are knowledge from secondary sources. None the less we still know a great deal about the man due to the enormous he left in antiquity.
Influence In Ancient GreeceIn Ancient Greece, he was part of the highly esteemed Seven Sages of Greece. These were basically legendary philosophers that the Greeks considered crucial in developing their way of thinking. For most of us today when we consider who were the most prominent intellectual minds in classical antiquity we are going to think of Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle. However, if you had asked those men during their time they would have almost certainly said Thales. Many do not know that Thales was also considered their universal ancestor and father of philosophy by these great people. Aristotle in particular, and many other great minds of antiquity including Democritus and Herodotus, accepted this to be the truth.
Thales became a skilled scholar and politician through the teachings of Egyptian priests. Likely in large part due to these teachings he became known as a man of practical understanding. Thales is also considered the first pre-Socratic philosopher. The pre-Socratics are famous for searching for explanations for the unknown phenomenons of nature based on natural predictable laws. During their time they were referred to in the Greek language as "physiologoi" or (natural philosophers).
Thales rejected the popular notion during his time that mythological gods were behind the unknown phenomenons. As a result, he is credited for the "discovery of nature". For example, the commonly accepted explanation of earthquakes was simply the result of Poseidon getting upset. Thales instead theorized that earthquakes were being caused by disruptions in the waters of the sea.
Most Significant Contributions To PhysicsAs a matter of fact, he is famous for theorizing water was behind basically everything. He believed that everything was made up of water. This idea came to him by observing how water flowed from streams and then into rivers and then into the oceans. Somehow Thales got the idea all things most follow a similar pattern. Now his philosophy would seem a little strange to modern educated minds. However, at the time it was a very clever way of looking at things. In fact, it was his way of thinking which really made him special. So much so he is considered by many as the "Father Of Science". Do you remember Thales’ Theorem in geometry class? Yep, you guessed it that was him. He was responsible for many advancements in geometry.