From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Physics / Biographies  (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Physics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Physics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
This article is supported by Biographies Taskforce.
WikiProject Philosophy (Rated C-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of the WikiProject Philosophy, which collaborates on articles related to philosophy. To participate, you can edit this article or visit the project page for more details.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Biography (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Biography, a collaborative effort to create, develop and organize Wikipedia's articles about people. All interested editors are invited to join the project and contribute to the discussion. For instructions on how to use this banner, please refer to the documentation.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
WikiProject Mathematics (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject Mathematics
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Mathematics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Mathematics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Mathematics rating:
C Class
Mid Importance
 Field: Mathematicians
One of the 500 most frequently viewed mathematics articles.
WikiProject Greece (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Greece, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Greece on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
Checklist icon
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Turkey (Rated C-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Turkey, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Turkey and related topics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Classical Greece and Rome (Rated C-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is part of the WikiProject for Classical Greece and Rome, a group of contributors who write Wikipedia's Classics articles. If you would like to join the WikiProject or learn how to contribute, please see our project page. If you need assistance from a classicist, please see our talk page.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
Wikipedia Version 1.0 Editorial Team
WikiProject icon This article has been reviewed by the Version 1.0 Editorial Team.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the quality scale.


I accidently erased a whole section.. I think it was the politics one. I didn't know you could erase things. If someone can fix that please do so! I am so sorry it was an accident!!!

Article needs major rewrite.

In an effort to be polite, editors seem to have aired various points of view without giving the article some overall coherence. Can someone help? Kotika98 (talk) 05:44, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Vehemently agree. —Preceding unsigned comment added by User: (talkcontribs) 21:51, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. I was trying to learn something about Thales and was lost in the rhetoric. This needs to be rectified immediately. Sovereignlance (talk) 05:50, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

What's in a name?

Could someone explain why he is called "Θαλῆς ὁ Μιλήσιος" when he was born in "Μίλητος"? Is the distinction merely of the form by which "American" is related to "America"? Many thanks Elliott Fontain (talk) 07:20, 22 February 2009 (UTC) Yes. The word "Μιλήσιος" is in adjectival form, and the word "ὁ" [literally, "the"] is the Greek way of saying, "Get ready for an adjective." Gtbiehle (talk) 10:37, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Same in English: Miletus (city's name), Milesian (adjective). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:09, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

Why is the pronunciation "Thay-leez"? This should be fixed. Undergraduates across the US are learning a vulgarized American pronunciation with no basis in ancient or modern greek phonology. It should be more like "Tall-eez" (ˈtʰaːliːs) or even "Tall-ess" (ˈtʰaːlɛːs) as it is currently pronounced on the modern continent. In any case the pronunciation given on the top of this article should be among the last considered, e.g. right before "Thaylz" which is how I understand the modern british might be saying it nowadays. (talk) 18:57, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

New Overview?

I think this page should have a good overview section. There isn't much there right now. However I'm not an expert on Thales, so I wouldn't be the person to do it. 17:41, 27 February 2007 (UTC)


This article is being totally blitzed by major vandalism. The material is being altered so that it now contains totally erroneous statements; for example, a quote by Nietsche is now attributed to Bertrand Russell. Not only that, but whoever is doing it is not leaving much of a trace. I'm going to have to revert this in a major way. If anyone can help out here I would appreciate that. I'll be back to this article after you have a chance to think about it. You system administrators, note that no good philosophy articles can be written on Wikipedia if this situation is going to prevail.

To the 66.29.114 Vandals

One or more persons working on three or four computers at 66.29.114 went through and blitzed much of the article. They then left a box around the statement that the Catholic Encyclopedia uses physiologist even though the word already has another meaning.

Am I supposed to conclude that if we say something you consider "wrong" you are going to terrorize us, much in the way the protection racketeers terrorize restaurants? If we are to take this at face value I think you better check with your priest. The church doesn't need the likes of you to "defend" it. The saints do a somewhat better job. St. Francis didn't go around smashing things if he didn't like something someone said. But, I think your box was a false trail. You're just a bunch of sick jerks trying to cast doubt on your purely evil motives. Let me ask you. Life is not all that long, you know? At the end of it, how are you going to account for your life/lives? That you were great terrorists and served evil really well? I don't think I'd like to be standing in your shoes. 03:42, 29 March 2006 (UTC) Oh, here is my user name.Dave 03:43, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

To the sincere

I had to revert sections of the article back a few months to get it to make any sense. If I inadvertently messed up your sincere correction I am sorry. I am going back through to check. Let me know, will you?Dave 04:37, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Description of Change on 2-13-07

Normally I would just make this change and not say anything since it's just cleanup work, but given the number of edits that have occurred I wanted to clarify what I did. It looks like at some point somebody attempted to fix a previous act of vandalism by copying text from the rendered page rather than from the wiki source and inserted it into the middle of the page. Strangely, the original wikified text was also left in place, resulting in the article being printed twice in a row (once with wiki markup and once without).

All I did was remove the doubled text, making sure not to remove anything else. Jake

Natural and supernatural

Many philosophers followed his lead in searching for explanations in nature rather than in the supernatural, others returned to supernatural explanations, but couched in the language of philosophy, rather than myth or religion.

I think this sentence presupposes an enlightenment distinction between naturalistic explanations and supernaturalism, which was alien to the Greek thought of the time, and so I think it should be re-written, moved, or at least qualified. --Mark Christensen

There is a distinction to be made here between what is significant as we see it and what is significant as the ancient Greeks might have seen it. Thales is significant to us because he launched a tradition of thought that ultimately led to a scientific revolution, and the essential element of this tradition is the search for causes in nature rather than outside of nature (an extremely radical idea that apparently has never originated independently anywhere else). This is a point that should definitely be included in the article. It basically answers the question, Why should we care about Thales? The question, Why did ancient Greeks care about Thales? might be answered differently, but not by me, because I don't know. - TS

How would you feel about the following:

Thales attempt to explain natural phenomenon without reference to mythology was tremendously influential. All of the other pre-Socratic philosophers follow him in attempting to provide an explanation of ultimate substance, change, and the existence of the world -- without reference to mythology. Those philosophers were also influential, and eventually Thales rejection of mythological explanations became an essential idea for the scientific revolution.

It does not create a naturalism/supernaturalism distinction where it did not exist. But it provides a link to our time...

I don't think this is wrong or misleading but I don't know if it is better. You can change it if you have a strong opinion. I would accuse some of the pre-Socratics, notably Pythagoras, of introducing their own mythology to replace the old mythological explanations that the Ionians had rejected. - TS

Agreed, the Pythagorean cult could be considered to have created their own mythology. And that's exactly my point -- these philosophers did not make a clear distinction between naturalism and mythology, so their philosophy can, and is sometimes deprecated for not removing all supernaturalist explanations, and at the same time called by others "naturalistic."

I think the real distinction is not between naturalism/supernaturalism, or the rejection of mythology, but between cosmologies based on reason and those based on tradition. This is think highlights another flaw in this and some of the other articles on the pre-Socratics -- history of philosophy ought focus on the arguments advanced by these various people, and to a lesser or greater extent all of these articles seem to simply recount a succession of opinions. I'll try to fix that, add clear references to source material, and create an article on pre-Socratic thought which ties these people's ideas together a bit.

This may take some time, as I'll have to dig up my notes on these works, and the copies of the source materials which are buried in a box somewhere.

Also, I agree with your assessment that the prose of the previous example exhibits a vigor and clarity which my revision lacks -- even though I think the original version is incorrect and misleading. I'll fix this before I make any change. --Mark Christensen

No, the ancients made no distinction between natural and supernatural. I have no problem with our using it. We aren't taking the ancient point of view, we are characterizing their point of view for populations remote from them. They believed in both points of view. They defined nature and natural all right, but they also espoused what we would call the supernatural, and that is nowhere so clear as with Thales. We aren't going to espouse the gods, so what on earth can we say except to lead into it with our own concepts? But, we have to present their concepts as their concepts and ours as ours.
I'm happy with the lead in. Excellent presentation.
Sorry I preempted you, Mr. Christiansen. There is no date on your message. You seem to have forgotten about the article. But, should you now decide to do some rewriting, don't worry about me. Anyway, I'm concentrating on sources instead of interpretation, so unless Aristotle or someone said it, I won't care to get into it.Dave 02:09, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Move to Thales of Miletus

Can we plz plz plz move this to Thales of Miletus Lir 12:06 Nov 21, 2002 (UTC)

Why? Adam Bishop 17:58, 29 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I could see it if there was some kind of terrible ambiguity problem, but in practice I see/hear "Thales" by itself more often than with "of Miletus". Stan 18:39, 29 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I'm used to hearing him called "Thales of Miletus" and found it vaguely jarring to see the article titled otherwise. (On a side note, you know you're in a backwater article when it takes two years to have one short conversation...) Isomorphic 11:21, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
lol! - Ta bu shi da yu 11:58, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Herodotus calls him Thales of Miletus. Prior to the rise of Athens after 450 BC, Miletus was the richest and most acclaimed Greek city state. We may say Thales because we know of none other than Thales of Miletus. The ancients said Thales of Miletus because there were other minor Thaleses and Miletus gave Thales renown as much as Thales' fame redounded to the credit of his home city. User tdw1203, 3 Jan 2006

Unless there is an article on one of the other Thales mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, why complicate matters? Nobody knows them, everyone knows our Thales.Dave 01:53, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

thales' prediction of solar eclipses

It is consensus now that Thales did not have the technical wherewithal to predict solar eclipse events. Otto Neugebauer, The exact sciences in Antiquity (Princeton, 1952), 142-end, presents convincing negatory evidence.

Herodotus does not cite Thales as having predicted the solar eclipse of 585. Check out 1.74 where there is no mention of a date of any kind. Herodotus misunderstood eclipse phenomena. He mentions a total solar eclipse for 480 that he says affected Xerxes's march (7.37.1). No such solar eclipse occurred. A lunar eclipse, however, did occur near the supposed time. On the afternoon of 28 May of 585 BC an eclipse could have been observed from the banks of the Halys river; whether it was total or not, even modern astronomical calculation cannot predict with certainty. Herodotus's discussion of the Lydian-Median battle needs revisiting.User:Tdw1203 3 jan. 2006

There is no such consensus. A lot of writing has been done on this and other Thalesian topics. Wouldn't you know it, the points of view are 180 degrees apart. Herodotus is not a major source on Thales; he scarcely mentions him. The convention among historians worth their salt is, unless you have evidence that a source was altered, you need to keep it. What else do you have? All you have is the word of the sources and if that is to be dismissed you have nothing at all. The topic, in other words, is a lot bigger than Neugebauer and he doesn't represent a consensus. I don't think Wiki really has room to get into it. Sometimes the sources are contradictory and one has no choice but to accept it contradictions and all.Dave 01:45, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Hotshot and Deduction

Hello Mr. hotshot, I removed the statement of yours from the intro that Thales introduced deduction to mathematics as vandalism, because I thought it was. It struck me however that you might not think it was. Just in case, I will give you my objection. How can there be any mathematics at all without deduction? How can the Rhind Papyrus have listed problems and solutions 1000 years earlier than Thales without deductive process? Perhaps you are thinking of formal deduction, being influenced by the article on Thales' Theorem. But that statement of it is totally unancient. It could have come out of any modern classroom of geometry. The author of the article did it that way, not because Thales did, but because he/she was trained to do it that way. We have no idea how Thales did it. He left no geometry behind. It's a nice modern article expanding on a statement made about Thales. Nobody says anywhere, yep, before Thales came along, we couldn't even deduce. I know it is very tempting at this end of the lifeline to see the ancients as the first moderns. We've made a big production out of deduction, too big, as far as I am concened (as you can't even deduce how to deduce any more), but all that is far later than Thales. Now, if you don't mean that, you can't possibly mean that human deduction started with Thales. The point is, we don't guess at these things, we have to look at the sources.

   Indeed. Cassirer makes the point that prediction (=deduction) is what mind is all about, well that and play which prepares for acts.- Wblakesx

wierd words

some things like closeblaareverywierdere don't appear on google. please delete this when done.

The page has suffered a large amount of vandalism and needs to be reverted back to (I can't do this myself on this particular computer, the page is too large). Adam Bishop 04:45, 13 February 2006 (UTC)


Hey, where are some of the anecdotes regarding Thales? I was very surprised not to find the story of his solution to his mules finding out that they could loosen their load of sacks of salt by stubbornly dissolving the sacks in the streams they traversed. Thales solution was to add sponges to the bottom of the sacks! I'll have to find these anecdotes and add them to the page because I've always loved the anecdotes about Thales since I was very young and am *very* surprised that no one has added any?

By all means, put them in. I'm the 75% contributor but I didn't want to make the article too long. You sound pretty enthusiastic. Maybe you can add a dash of verve that will make people want to read about Thales.Dave 16:33, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Subtle vandalism on ethics

Returning to this article months after making the most substantial contribution to it, I find that most of Thales' ethics has been removed. Trying to find the contributor who did it, I end up in a maze of removed discussion page, blockage and the remnants of contributions to Islamic articles. No, no , no, my friend, that is not how it works. We don't alter history to suit this or that religion. Maybe the writing on that section might be condensed or improved but the material is valid. Come forward, please, defend yourself. I'd leave you a message but I can't find your page. I don't think Wikiterror has a legitimate place. You did it very subtly without much trace, so it managed to escape reversion. I will be back to this article later to see what you say and if you have not said anything I intend to rewrite the material putting the ideas back in. I may do that anyway, raising an issue if I have to.Dave 16:54, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

That's the way things happen here, unfortunately. If it's just some anonymous IP, you'll never find out who did it, and they'll never fix it. You'll have to revert back to a version that makes sense. Adam Bishop 17:32, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks Adam. I'm discovering the limitations of Wikipedia. Another answer would be to restrict access to the articles, but then it wouldn't be Wikipedia. If you have only designated experts working on it, why, then you are at the Encyclopedia Britannica. Maybe you need both. Wikipedia has whipped out a million articles in just a few years, many better than what Britannica does. It is sort of a paradigm of society, isn't it? Some of us keep trying to build while others cut an antic hay through it all destroying what they can for various reasons. Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent seems relevant.Dave 02:38, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
I suppose so...I guess you're the expert here. Vandalism is easier to revert when it is more like "Thales is a poohead". Are you sure that what you're reverting is actually vandalism, and not just a different point of view than your own? (And your message to the vandals above is not very useful, by the way...if they are vandals they will neither see it nor care if they did.) Adam Bishop 04:13, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Quoting in Greek

Is there a reason that the quotes in greek here are transliterated rarther than in original greek? If there are no objections im going to change them so that they are in greek script Fryd1e 18:25, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

You are probably long gone from the scene, but this one does raise the issue. I didn't think the general public could read any Greek. But if you want to put the Greek in, it would be better for those who do read Greek, and it might encourage someone to learn the alphabet and puzzle it out. Now, I noticed that initial efforts to put some Greek in didn't get the Greek right. I'm going to look at this now. I just happen to have the books giving the text in Greek, being a classicist. If we are going to put Greek in, this decision raises another question. There are many single words taken from the Greek but transliterated. I believe that is an accepted custom among classicists. So, you may wish to consider whether those should be in Greek. I would say, no. This is for the general public.
I'm sorry for taking so long to get back to this. I'm not going to put the work in only to have the article destroyed. If you are not going to destroy it I will put more work in. I have three observations. First is that among classical articles, which the general public do not read, this article is nothing special. There are no brilliant observations in there. It is not original work. It might be a classroom paper. But people don't know classicists and classics, of course. They are a rather quiet sort. Second, most of the hoopla you see in philosophy comes from non-classicists with a minor reputation eager to hitch their wagon to the star of wisdom so they can appear to be wise to the public. Well gosh. I will not sit in judgement, but you aren't going to find philosophy there. But there again I'm of the quiet school. If the publicitists will quit trashing them I will do some more quiet articles. The final observation is that I see no classicists have taken a hand on this. What quiet person would jump into this can of worms? It's too bad. In contrast to what B. F. Skinner said, there is dignitas and libertas and veritudo is not a fantasy.Dave 11:57, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Featured Article?

I would affirm this article is worthy of becoming a candidate for featured status. Would anyone like to go through the process of getting it considered for such?

I believe there is far too much information on who said what about Thales, and far too much concern for the meanings and translations of his works. This needs to be cleaned up BADLY to provide information on the man, not the translations and who referenced him. --The reverend 04:51, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Hello Mr. Reverend. I think I will take a chance and answer you, as it is a very good concern. It would be nice if we could just do a search and come up with all sorts of biographical data on Thales. The problem is he's been gone for 2500 years or so and there is nothing to be found except what a few sources say. Anything we can say has to be gleaned from a small handful of cites from the few authors who wrote of him. Without sticking to those quotes it certainly is easy to go off the deep end; take a look at the article on Philosophy. So, the customary treatment of such men focuses on these cites. It isn't like Alexander, whose life many persons in various cultures were eager to document. Now, many philosophers in their own right (in fact almost all) have written of Thales. But, they always place him in their own scheme of things. For sources they have nothing different from what you see in this article. We just can't get anything more from history. Sorry. It vanishes into the dark back there. So, the classical approach is more like the one I've taken. I'm a classicist. Classicists are more cautious; otherwise, look at the great uproar that can arise! So I hope I have answered you in a quiet fashion.Dave 11:10, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Astronomy story

the story regarding thales, the well, and plato (?) doesn't make any sense/is worded very poorly. this article has a long way to go before i would support its status as a featured article. Strawberryfire 13:45, 27 Sept. 2006 (UTC)

Hi strawberry. The astronomy part definitely could be improved. That specific part though is a lot of work. What did Thales know about the solar system? It isn't too clear, and that is the source of the lack of clarity. I took a look at it and I realized the astronomy should probably be another article, like the math. Thales came to reknown by predicting the eclipse. What it took to do that is a good question. I would say, what needs to be done is, first of all, an article on the astronomy of Thales. Then what I have said there should be pared even more and a reference to the main article put in. If you are interested in antiquarian research that would be a good project for you. You may not need Greek for that one. The subject is of some interest, believe me. Thales is considered the first scientist in the western tradition.Dave 00:05, 14 January 2007 (UTC)


I originally did the main part of the article. I note that the vandalism has mainly stopped. Thank you very much. Now, I would like to do some minor clean-up, such as putting the citations in footnotes. If anyone objects, let me know, will you? Thanks.Dave 10:55, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

The article looks as though you stopped halfway through an edit (there's repetition, and the text "edit" in brackets in a number of places. It needs tidying, but I'd rather leave it to someone who knows more about the material, if you're going to get back to it soon. Vicki Rosenzweig 04:27, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

A valid point

I made a valid point I feel has not been addressed, why is Thales part of wikiproject Turkey? Thales was not a Turk, he was a Greek, this much is undisputable.-- 19:27, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

I think you'd need to ask about that over on that Wikiproject, rather than here. Vicki Rosenzweig 01:14, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

The article already explains it:

"Thales lived around 624 BC546 BC and was born in the city of Miletus (Greek: Μίλητος transliterated Miletos, Turkish: Milet) an ancient city on the western coast of Anatolia (in what is now the Aydin Province of Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River."

Jagged 85 21:43, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

No, I'm afraid your reply does NOT answer the question. Miletos was a Greek city-state. Turkey did NOT exist at that time and any reference to Turkey under Thales or archaic (pre-socratic philosophy) is misleading. This is like having "Apache" or "Geronimo" in "USA wikiproject".

Tone box and other by the main original author

I see there is still a great deal of interest in and emotion about the article. Now it is somewhat longer than I intended. It has been rated. The rating is about what I think it should be. I see the vandalism is still going on.

The next step now is to upgrade the article. I'm not sure it is quite stable enough to be upgraded. At some point I probably will get involved again. The first thing I plan to look at is how to break out special topics. Then I want to check the Greek again and check the factuality and soundness of any additions.

I note the tone box added April 8. The user's user page indicated he is a valid interested editor but that is his only contribution to the article and furthermore there is no explanation that I can find anywhere of what he did not like about the tone. I didn't see a thing about the tone that I could say was worth a tone box. Maybe the tone could be improved here and there, slightly. But, without any indication of what the editor thinks is wrong it is hard to address the box. I could rewrite the whole thing and still not address the problem, as he sees it. Is there a problem? Or is this a subtle way of saying the editor disagrees with something in the article? So, I'm going to comment out the box. This is a challenge. Come back and say to me, "I don't like a, b, c, d" or use descriptive prose if you like. I like list formats. They are easy to address. The box went in in April. The editor has had three whole months to show cause. I'm issuing a fanciful habeas corpus and am getting the article out of his jail.Dave 10:40, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

cause of death?

It states on the Absent-minded Professor page that Thales died when he was looking up at the stars and fell down a well. There is a different cause of death stated in this article. Not really sure what to do, but I thought I would just put that out there. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:30, 1 May 2008 (UTC) I read in Norman Davies book Europe that he died falling into a well.Sekela3rd (talk) 00:22, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

Well, no one has much of a clue how Thales died. Most likely, all of the stories are legendary. The well story sounds like a variation of the story Plato introduced; the article's version, from the notorious gossip Diogenes Laertius (he was really a 3rd century Michael Musto), is no more or less reliable. The article would probably best state that the details of Thales' historical death are unknown, but that several important stories, most likely legends, have been introduced. (talk) 19:41, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

Father of science

I would like to ask if anyone would have any references about Thales being attributed the father of science, especially as Galileo is also referred to in the same way (Galileo is also referred to as the father of /modern/ science). If some reference(s) exists I think we should add it to the first paragraph. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:45, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

Of course, this depends upon what we mean by science. If we mean studies which employ the scientific method, no way. If we mean inquiry into nature which does not rely upon the supernatural, then we may have a case. Aristotle call Thales the founder of the type of philosophy which inquired into the basic principles of things; I take from this that Aristotle considered Thales the first philosopher rather than the first scientist. Russell's quote (Russell was also a big gossip - at least that's what his "history" of philosophy amounts to - see Diogenes above) seems to suffice - Father of science seems too ambiguous. (talk) 19:48, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

You can't separate Philosophy and science in this way. Philosophy in Greek literally means "love of knowledge" and there is ABSOLUTELY no distinction between the two. This division doesn't happen until the early modern period, ie. the seventeenth century.

Calling him the father of philosophy is also calling him the father of science. Aristotle wouldn't even have the language, let alone the distinction, to distinguish the two.

Also he did cosmology, which in modern times we still call cosmology, a branch of physics, physics being a branch of science. -maytagman, dec 05, 2008

Fine, but the question is not if the ancient Greeks would call Thales the father of science, but if we would. (talk) 15:23, 4 January 2009 (UTC)
This has been added regardless to the conversation and I believe, after reading it, that it was in reference to his idea of naturalism that "sparked the scientific revolution." This Is M4dn355 300 (talk) 10:09, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

What is the source of these quotes?

As we are told in the Doxographists:

It is said that he left nothing in writing except a book entitled 'Nautical Astronomy.' (Theophrastos, Dox. 475)

I am really curious as to where these "quotes" from Thales originate... I was under the impression that there were no surviving fragments from Thales, only secondary writings, eg. Aristotle's writings about Thales.

I especially find it troubling that he is quoted in the Greek with no citations whatsoever. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Maytagman (talkcontribs) 16:44, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

In general, I think this article is way too detailed given the paucity of reliable information on its subject - at least, it should emphasize far more than it does the doxagraphical tradition. The quotes appear to be from Diogenes, which make them quite unreliable. I have removed them, along with much of the stuff concerning ethics and sagacity, as these are not at all reliable and far too specific for this type of bio. As you say, none of Thales words. The only (somewhat) reliable direct quotes from Thales are the fragments "water is the arche" (already modernized by Aristotle), "all things are full of gods" and possible the fragment concerning the magnet and gods. Page still needs more work - putting things like the olive press and well story in context and toning down the theorizing, which again tell us more about those theorizing than about Thales. (talk) 15:41, 4 January 2009 (UTC)
I got your point, however lets keep like that it till more editors participate on the issue. The Cat and the Owl (talk) 16:00, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Was there a real Thales

Any critical reader of the article should note that actually there are no eye-withesses, records, or testimonies on Thales' life. Herodotos was born quite 60 years after Thales' death (and Herodotos is called "Father of Lies" by David Pipes). I can read in the article that many of the stories on Thales contradict eachother.
As centuries passed, new biographers emerged, and more details as well - finally a picture. It looks to me like most, if not all, of Thales is a legend, as the ancient sources are not very reliable (in those days, I guess historian were paid to write history, not to say "we don't know"). Existing mathematical inventions might just have been "glued" to the legend. Can anyone help me with an "irrefutable proof" for Thales? Riyadi (talk) 15:43, 18 April 2009 (UTC)

I don't think we need "irrefutable proof" (for example there is no ""irrefutable proof" about Jesus); after all this is not an article about a debate on the subject. OTOH, if there is such debate, it would be nice to have a sub-heading for it. Pergamino (talk) 18:16, 18 April 2009 (UTC)

I believe it makes sense to know whether Thales really existed. There exists a lot of contradictory information on Thales - more facts than one life can contain (e.g. he was never married; he also was married and had a son). Some use that situation to "prove" other points: the "afrocentric" thesis that Thales studied in Egypt for a long time, and got all his wisdom from there. The afrocentric thesis is actually that ALL founders of Greek "science" and philosophy (Pythagoras, Plato) have taken their knowledge from some mythical Egyptian source, that Greek philosophy, science, and writing is not original and indebted completely to ancient Egypt (which was black). The fact that "historians" like Diodorus mixed up history and myth to give foundation to claims of ancienty of Greek thinking (by rooting it in Egypt) adds arguments to the afrocentric morosophies. There was no Egyptian science. And probably there was no real Thales (at least not the mythical Thales). And no Pythagoras. It is hence in my view important to sort that out before piling up "facts" and mixing stories with reality. Riyadi (talk) 10:21, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

There are no serious debates concerning the existence of Thales in philosophical circles. However, as has been noted, much of what is attributed to Thales is, indeed, in question. (Most scholars, for example, reject both Plato's well story and Aristotle's olive press story - two of the better-known stories about Thales.) This does not mean he didn't exist, but rather that a lot of legends have grown up around him. Note that many of these legends appear centuries after Thales' death - for example Diogenes, the source of quite a bit of unreliable information about Thales. As noted above, Herodotus was born quite a few years after Thales death and is another unreliable source.
Plato's dialogues of course are not historical transcripts, and what he says is generally unreliable, but it is hard to imagine he just made up Thales and everyone else went along with him. Furthermore, Thales' importance lies as much in reaction to his teachings as in his own life. Anaximander's work - far superior and far more sophisticated than what is attributed to Thales - is yet in many ways a reaction to Thales.
Is is helpful to understand the nature of "history" for the Greeks. The purpose of historical and biographical accounts was not to tell the reader "how it was" but to provide moral instruction. Herodotus was not a "liar" because what his readers wanted was not "the truth about what happened" but "how to be good" - after all, the latter is more important. Writers attach stories to Thales, not to lie about his work or existence, but to provide moral lessons, which go down easier when attached to one of the seven sages.
In sum, no serious scholar debates Thales existence and stories about Thales should be understand within the context of the Greek understanding of history, (talk) 13:56, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Influence on others

The section Influence on others doesn't look all right. First I disagree about the discourse about of logos vs. mythos (if versus is at all the correct stance). Thales certainly spoke logos, not mythos, but I believe the derrogatory way of does-not:s to describe the mythos is some kind of anachronistic 19th or early 20th century logical positivist discourse on how mythos doesn't work, that has nothing to do with neither Thales nor current thinking. The discourse from:

Looking specifically at Thales' influence ...


... and not in the way of gods and mythical stories.

should need citations and rewriting to not sound as phanatical technocracy propaganda. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 08:00, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Why does the discourse confuse the logos reasoning with individualism? The connection seems to be entirely in the mind of the editor that wrote that. Scientism, rationalism, empirism and positivism does not regard the individual, except as any other object. Weird indeed! ... said: Rursus (bork²) 08:09, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
Just delete the offending stuff, there

's no point, really, in slapping citation-needed tags on it. Whoever wrote has probably long gone, and I doubt anyone else is going to cite it. I've just deleted some nonsense about two (obviously spurious) letters of Thales having been preserved by Diogenes Laertius, ("which are two more than the surviving works of Socrates"). People just spew this junk out, and because this page has no active editors trying to improve it, it all just gets left in. This entire page needs a big editing job done to it I think. Singinglemon (talk) 20:15, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

A quick point: logos and muthos often mean the exact same thing. If you look at Plato Phaedo 60-62 where he is trying to differentiate logos from muthos (this is often taken as programmatic), even he confuses the two words and pretty quickly stops trying to differentiate them.-- (talk) 07:45, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Link to this Article from Corporate Promotional Site

This article has been linked to from [1], a nexus in a Google promotion (quite possibly collaborative with dozens of other major corporations) that alludes to lie algebra, specifically lie group E8 and its use in string theory. Riyuky (talk) 04:50, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

Thales theorem=Elliptic integrals of second kind

Is this topic interesting for discussion on a math-desk of Wiki? A generalized Thales theorem about similarity of triangles reaches to an equivalency for elliptic integrals of second kind.(more)TASDELEN (talk) 20:51, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

Comparison with modern science

In the section "Theories" under "Life" the last paragraph reads, "What Aristotle is really saying is that the first philosophers were trying to define the substance(s) of which all material objects are composed. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what modern scientists are attempting to accomplish in nuclear physics, which is a second reason why Thales is described as the first western scientist." I am a physicist, not a philosopher. I can say that this statement expresses what IMO is a true sentiment, but the comparison with nuclear physics just hurts. That is so 1960s. Better would be, "That is what present-day physicists aim for with string theory (M-theory) . . . ." Gtbiehle (talk) 11:00, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Measuring the height of the Great Pyramid

Thales is indeed one of the first individuals on record to be credited with discoveries in mathematics, more specifically, in geometry. One of the more notable works of Thales is his measuring the height of the Great Pyramid of Egypt through the use of shadows and properties of similar triangles. However, the article’s account of this differs from the one offered in David M. Burton’s book, The History of Mathematics: An Introduction. This book reports that Thales did not use his own shadow for this, but instead used a 6 foot long staff which casted a shadow of 9 feet at a certain time of the day. He then measured the length of the pyramid’s shadow at the same time of day and then used these three values in proportional relationships to solve for the height of the pyramid:

Pyramid height / staff height = pyramid’s shadow length / staff shadow length

This version of the story seems more convincing to me since using a staff would offer more reliable and consistent measurements than using Thales’ own body as the measuring device, in which case he would not be able to measure his own shadow without an assistant. (talk) 03:13, 2 May 2011 (UTC) Mitch, History of Mathematics student at Saint Martin's University

Very astute observation, and I would have to agree with your thought. However, he could have made a mark on the ground, then line up the end of his shadow to the mark, and make another mark where he stood. I do still agree with you because he would also have to know his own height, and again, would be most accurate with an assistant and easier to measure your own stick. M larry l (talk) 07:02, 2 May 2011 (UTC) , Larry, Saint Martin's University, Math Major

I also agree with this point. Using the staff seems like it would give a more accurate/exact measurement since it was exactly six feet long so it wouldn't deal with fractions of a foot. Furthermore, it may or may not be relevant to point out that there are minute differences in height throughout the day due to the effect of gravity/shoes/etc. So depending on when he measured himself and when he made the measurements of the pyramid/shadow there may have been a discrepancy. This idea is a bit far reaching though. (talk) 23:11, 2 May 2011 (UTC) Kelsey, History of Mathematics student at Saint Martin's University

I think all of our ideas are valid. Since the documentation for these historical events can sometimes be quite sketchy we can only surmise the most logical possibilities using our intuition. However, I don't think we can ever truly be sure what actually took place. (talk) 20:11, 3 May 2011 (UTC) Mitch, History of Mathematics student at Saint Martin's University


Like most of the Greek philosophy articles this one needs some serious attention by some actual classicists. I don't really have time to do any rewriting, but I would point out that the article makes the unattributed claim that Thales is somehow a big figure in the so-called progression from muthos to logos (Cassirer 1946 is probably the unattributed source here because his opinions used to be the conventional wisdom, but that particular fallacy goes back to Aristotle in the Metaphysics).

I appreciate that a prior editor has marked several of the sentences as needing citation and clarification, but even if those were provided this would still be a seriously antiquated and misleading opinion (C. Morgan 2000.30ff provides a pretty good history of why that isn't thought anymore, but her book isn't strictly on the topic. There is a literature). I think that the article would be altogether better without a section on "influence on others" at all, because unless you wanted to include just a brief description of Aristotle Metaphysics 983b ff (which is his history), you are really not going to get anything but opinion. Strictly put, no one really knows who Thales was, and neither did the ancients.

I'm not a Wikipedian, though, so I would defer to their opinion on what to do. But I think we have a pretty good illustration with a lot of the problems pages on the humanities in general have on Wikipedia.

The section on sources after it is much better.-- (talk) 07:38, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

The Theory Section

I do not understand the last sentence in this paragraph, from the beginning of the "theory" section:

"The most natural epithets of Thales are "materialist" and "naturalist", which are based on ousia and physis. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that Aristotle called him a physiologist, with the meaning "student of nature."[23] On the other hand, he would have qualified as an early physicist, as did Aristotle. They studied corpora, "bodies", the medieval descendants of substances."

How can the corpora that Thales and Aristotle studied be the "medieval descendants" of substances when Thales and Aristotle were not medieval men? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:56, 14 February 2012 (UTC)


This article seems to be missing a lot of citations - both where it states this and in factual statements such as, "Thales was born in the city of Miletus around the mid 620s BC. Miletus was an ancient Greek Ionian city on the western coast of Asia Minor (in what is today Aydin Province of Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River."

It is also my understanding that these factual statements are sometimes copied and they need to be cited or deleted. This Is M4dn355 300 (talk) 10:18, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

File:Thales-04.jpg Nominated for speedy Deletion

Image-x-generic.svg An image used in this article, File:Thales-04.jpg, has been nominated for speedy deletion at Wikimedia Commons for the following reason: Copyright violations
What should I do?

Don't panic; deletions can take a little longer at Commons than they do on Wikipedia. This gives you an opportunity to contest the deletion (although please review Commons guidelines before doing so). The best way to contest this form of deletion is by posting on the image talk page.

  • If the image is non-free then you may need to upload it to Wikipedia (Commons does not allow fair use)
  • If the image isn't freely licensed and there is no fair use rationale then it cannot be uploaded or used.
  • If the image has already been deleted you may want to try Commons Undeletion Request

To take part in any discussion, or to review a more detailed deletion rationale please visit the relevant image page (File:Thales-04.jpg)

This is Bot placed notification, another user has nominated/tagged the image --CommonsNotificationBot (talk) 08:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

vandalized again

First section, obvious It doesn't have to be "all or nothing". Access could granted to edit but there could be some restrictions that make it harder to vandalize. Benvhoff (talk) 23:55, 1 January 2013 (UTC)


A son of two Phoenician parents who lived in a land controlled by Lydia is called Greek, well done. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:24, 13 April 2013 (UTC)

Why is Thales considered Greek at all?

His parents were Phoenician nobles according to Diogenes, Herodotus,Douris and Democritus. The Phoenicians colonized Miletus in the late 9th century BC, during the Greeks' dark age. Greek mythology credits the Phoenicians, personified by the prince Cadmus, with re-alphabetizing the Greeks (with the Phoenician alphabet and not the defunct Greek linear alphabets), founding Thebes, etc. Archeological evidence proves that the sudden resurgence of Greek city-states from the bronze age collapse is due to Phoenician traders setting up emporia in the Aegean. The first historian of Miletus is also said to be a certain Cadmus, a Phoenician.

Furthermore, Thales, a trader in the best Phoenician tradition, spent a good deal of his youth in Egypt, where he gained entry into priesthood and learning. He used his Phoenician and Egyptian know-how to corner the olive market during a year of scarcity and thus became wealthy. His prediction of a solar eclipse in 585 BC without the basic understanding of astronomy required to calculate it indicates that he knew the Babylonian empirical method to calculate eclipses.

Granted, we know far too little about either Thales or his other Phoenician-descended student Pythagoras. Why is it then that we insist he is Greek when his city was inhabited - as was Samos - by both Phoenicians and Greeks, the latter being instructed in trade and science by the former? Agitpapa (talk) 16:01, 14 July 2013 (UTC)

Aristotle and the plagiarism scam from Thales

This article brings up some interesting points. Thales was a great mind of ancient times, and did persuade many western thinks. The only complaint I have is how little you mentioned of Thales being ripped off by Aristotle. Aristotle stole most of his philosophy from Thales, Anaximander, and the philosophers before his time. I would definitely include something about that in the opening paragraph to capture your readers attention, because as you state Aristotle is the most popular philosopher of all time. Comparing Thales to being more wise then Aristotle would capture many young aspiring philosophers attention.

--Mavorik1 (talk) 02:44, 14 September 2013 (UTC)

Creative Commons License