Quotes about Thales
22 Sourced Quotes
The fact that arithmetic and geometry took such a notable step forward... was due in no small measure to the introduction of Egyptian papyrus into Greece. This event occurred about 650 B.C., and the invention of printing in the 15th century did not more surely effect a revolution in thought than did this introduction of writing material on the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea just before the time of Thales.
[Thales] first went to Egypt and hence introduced this study [geometry] into Greece. He discovered many propositions himself, and instructed his successors in the principles underlying many others, his method of attack being in some cases more general [i.e. more theoretical or scientific], in others more empirical [...more in the nature of simple inspection or observation].
It has been asserted that metaphysical speculation is a thing of the past and that physical science has extirpated it. The discussion of the categories of existence, however, does not appear to be in danger of coming to an end in our time, and the exercise of speculation continues as fascinating to every fresh mind as it was in the days of Thales.
It seems probable that the early Greeks were largely indebted to the Phoenicians for their knowledge of practical arithmetic or the art of calculation, and perhaps also learnt from them a few properties of numbers. It may be worthy of note that Pythagoras was a Phoenician; and according to Herodotus, but this is more doubtful, Thales was also of that race.
The sciences we are familiar with have been installed in a number of great 'continents'. Before Marx, two such continents had been opened up to scientific knowledge: the continent of Mathematics and the continent of Physics. The first by the Greeks (Thales), the second by Galileo. Marx opened up a third continent to scientific knowledge: the continent of History.
A transition, therefore, is not undeservedly made from sense to consideration, and from this to the nobler energies of intellect. Hence, as the certain knowledge of numbers received its origin among the Phœnicians, on account of merchandise and commerce, so geometry was found out among the Egyptians from the distribution of land. When Thales, therefore, first went into Egypt, he transferred this knowledge from thence into Greece: and he invented many things himself, and communicated to his successors the principles of many. Some of which were, indeed, more universal, but others extended to sensibles.
It is said that Thales the Milesian, one of the seven sages, was the first to take in hand natural philosophy. He said that the beginning and end of the universe was water; for that from its solidification and redissolution all things have been constructed and that all are borne about by it.
Thales thought that water was the primordial substance of all things. Heraclitus of Ephesus... thought that it was fire. Democritus and his follower Epicurus thought that it was the atoms, termed by our writers "bodies that cannot be cut up" or, by some "indivisibles." The school of the Pythagoreans added air and the earthy to the water and fire. Hence, although Democritus did not in a strict sense name them, but spoke only of indivisible bodies, yet he seems to have meant these same elements, because when taken by themselves they cannot be harmed, nor are they susceptible of dissolution, nor can they be cut up into parts, but throughout time eternal they forever retain an infinite solidity.