- NAME: Aristotle
- OCCUPATION: Philosopher
- BIRTH DATE: c. 384 BCE
- DEATH DATE: c. 322 BCE
- EDUCATION: Plato's Academy, Lyceum
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Stagira, Chalcidice, Greece
- PLACE OF DEATH: Chalcis, Euboea, Greece
- Full Name: Aristotle
Best Known For
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, together with Socrates and Plato, laid much of the groundwork for western philosophy.
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Art was also a popular area of interest. Members of the Lyceum wrote up their findings in manuscripts. In so doing, they built the school’s massive collection of written materials, which by ancient accounts was credited as one of the first great libraries.
In the same year that Aristotle opened the Lyceum, his wife Pythias died. Soon after, Aristotle embarked on a romance with a woman named Herpyllis, who hailed from his hometown of Stagira. According to some historians,
Herpyllis may have been Aristotle’s slave, granted to him by the Macedonia court. They presume that he eventually freed and married her. Regardless, it is known that Herpyllis bore Aristotle children, including one son named Nicomachus, after Aristotle’s father. Aristotle is believed to have named his famed philosophical work Nicomachean Ethics in tribute to his son.
When Aristotle’s former student Alexander the Great died suddenly in 323 B.C., the pro-Macedonian government was overthrown, and in light of anti-Macedonia sentiment, Aristotle was charge with impiety. To avoid being prosecuted, he left Athens and fled to Chalcis on the island of Euboea, where he would remain until his death.
Although Aristotle was not technically a scientist by today’s definitions, science was among the subjects that he researched at length during his time at the Lyceum. Aristotle believed that knowledge could be obtained through interacting with physical objects. He concluded that objects were made up of a potential that circumstances then manipulated to determine the object’s outcome. He also recognized that human interpretation and personal associations played a role in our understanding of those objects.
Aristotle’s research in the sciences included a study of geology. He attempted, with some error, to classify animals into genera based on their similar characteristics. He further classified animals into species based on those that had red blood and those that did not. The animals with red blood were mostly vertebrates, while the “bloodless” animals were labeled cephalopods. Despite the relative inaccuracy of his hypothesis, Aristotle’s classification was regarded as the standard system for hundreds of years.
Marine biology was also an area of fascination for Aristotle. Through dissection, he closely examined the anatomy of marine creatures. In contrast to his geological classifications, his observations of marine life, as expressed in his books, are considerably more accurate.
As evidenced in his treatise Meteorology, Aristotle also dabbled in the earth sciences. By meteorology, Aristotle didn’t simply mean the study of weather. His more expansive definition of meteorology included “all the affectations we may call common to air and water, and the kinds and parts of the earth and the affectations of its parts.” In Meteorology, Aristotle identified the water cycle and discussed topics ranging from natural disasters to astrological events. Although many of his views on the Earth were controversial at the time, they were readopted and popularized during the late Middle Ages.
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