Though he was the son of a Phoenician mother, Thales of Miletus was a citizen of the Ionian city of Miletus. Thales’s mother bore the Greek name Cleobulina; his father was called Examyes, a name used by Carians, the indigenous people of southwestern Anatolia.
Thales was born in Miletus, the premier city of Archaic Greece (in modern Turkey). Eventhough little is known about his life, Thales came to be known as the first of the ‘Seven Sages’ or wise men of the ancient world.
He was a founder of the Ionian school in the pre-Socratic Era. Thales was an astronomer, mathematician and philosopher. He was born in 624 BC and died in 565 BC.
Thales established a heritage of searching for knowledge for knowledge’s sake, development of the scientific method, establishment of practical methods and application of a conjectural approach to question of natural phenomena.
Miletus was a seaport on the trade routes that linked the Mediterranean world with India and other countries of the Near East, Ass Thales traveled outside his local community, he became known as Thales of Miletus.
As a young man, he traveled to Egypt and the Near East to study geometry, a branch of mathematics concerned with points, lines and surfaces in two dimensions. He learned how Egyptians used practical geometrical techniques to measure distances and to calculate areas of plots of farmland.
Thales learned astronomy from Chaldaeans at Babylon. He learned of the ‘Saronic cycle’ that is to say the interval of eighteen years and eleven days, a multiple of which the observation of ages by temple star-gazers had shown to be usual between eclipses of the sun. Knowledge of this enabled the shrewd travel to make a lucky forecast of the eclipse visible at Miletus in 585 BC.
It was Thales of Miletus, who was credited with the discovery of the electrostatic attraction. Thales noted that after amber was rubbed, straw was attracted to the piece of amber.
The Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus, writing in the fifth century AD, says that Thales learned geometry from the Egyptian and brought the knowledge back to Greece. Thales is noted for his contributions in geometry and cosmology.
Thales was also supposed to be the first to prove various geometrical theorems and it was said that he used geometry to measure the heights of the pyramids in Egypt and the distance of ships at sea.
Aristotle claimed Thales as the first person to propose natural, rather than mythical, causes for the creation of the ‘kosmos’ or world. In developing a rational theory of the kosmos, Thales asserted that water was the first principal; that is water is the material cause of all things.
Biography of Thales of Miletus