Thales, a Greek mathematician cum philosopher lived in Pre-Socratic times around 620-625 BC. He is commonly known as Thales of Miletus as he belonged to Miletus in Asian region. He is also acclaimed to be one of seven Greek sages that left invincible impact upon philosophy and other sciences. Thales unveiled an era not only in world of science but also in philosophy that’s why he has been dubbed as “father of science”.
He made important contribution to astronomy, mathematics and philosophy as Bertrand Russell said “western philosophy begins with Thales”. Aristotle also described him as the first philosopher among Greeks. He not only influenced the later philosophers but also played important role in development of philosophy. He initiated a new tradition that is negation of previous influence of mythology in providing an explanation of the natural phenomena or existence. This altogether brought about revolution in philosophy. Instead of conventional ideas, he advanced scientific method by setting forth hypothesis and then identified the underlying principles. He influenced later Greek thinkers and philosophers such as Pythagoras and others. His essential belief was as Laertius said “Water constituted the principles of all things”.
As Cicero said this about Thales:
“Thales assures that water is the principle of all things; and that God is that mind which shaped and created all things from water”
He also brought up new rational basis of things rather than initially held supernatural explanations. One such example was his attempt to explain earthquakes by movement of earth or floating of earth on water rather than attributing it to some supernatural incidence.
Contribution in Mathematics
In regards to mathematics, he reached at solution of problems through geometry for instance the height or distance was calculated by him through geometry. He also used the same scientific method that is method of deduction and reasoning rather than alluding to mythology. Thus he was a pioneer in discovering new scientific method in mathematics that’s why he is regarded as the first true mathematician. Another remarkable achievement of his was deriving the theorem, popularly known as Thales theorem on basis of deductive reasoning.
His perception of geometry can be realized from his strongly held notion that “space is the greatest thing as it contains all things”
With regards to geometry, his approach was much more scientific and theoretical. Most of times, he made use of his knowledge in practical ways for instance he utilized his knowledge of right and similar triangles in finding the height or length of pyramids. Besides this, he also invented his own theorem, which is related with inscription of triangle in circle and circle’s diameter is equivalent to one leg. In addition to this, he is also attributed to establish another theorem often called as intercept theorem. He is known to make discovery regarding circle that if cut half by its diameter and that base angles as well as vertical angles of triangle are equal.
Thus he brought new vistas to existing ideals of mathematics and philosophy mainly by his attempt to rediscover it in more practical or theoretical terms.
Although the exact date of his death is not known but it is presumed that he died between 547-546 BC