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Little is known about this Greek philosopher except what has been reported
by others. He was born in 624 B.C. in Miletus and died at the age of seventy-eight.
He is credited by the Greeks with successfully predicting the eclipse of the
sun during an important battle between the Lydian king Alyattes and the Median
Cyaxares in 585 B.C. Aristotle attributed to Thales the invention of philosophy,
based on Thales' speculation that water was the fundamental source-element in
the formation of matter. More important than Thales' conclusions, however, was
his assertion that answers to such basic questions must be grounded in reason
rather than myth and revelation. In addition to his "scientific" theorizing,
Thales was credited by Herodotus with being a skillful politician and a champion
of Ionian federation throughout the Aegean.
Thomas, Ivor, trans. Selections Illustrating the History of Greek Mathematics.
2 vols. Translated by Ivor Thomas. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.