Person: Empedocles Of Acragas
Empedocles was a Greek philosopher who is best known for his belief that all matter was composed of four elements: fire, air, water, and earth. Some have considered him the inventor of rhetoric and the founder of the science of medicine in Italy.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- It was, in Empedocles time, a rich city containing the finest Greek culture.
- There are many legends regarding Empedocles life.
- It is not difficult to see the source of most of the legends about Empedocles for these are built on the poems that he wrote himself.
- Certainly Empedocles was attributed with many "firsts".
- Empedocles did not go for the "all is one" version, but his "all is composed of the four elements" is extremely important in the development of science since it was adopted by Plato and Aristotle.
- Although we no longer believe in Empedocles' four element theory, we do still look for simple mathematics which will explain the complex phenomena that surround us.
- Empedocles did not base his four element hypothesis on any experimental evidence.
- Placing the bottom hole of the vessel under water, Empedocles observed that the vessel filled up with water.
- Empedocles correctly deduced that the air in the container prevented the water entering.
- Empedocles believed that light travelled with a finite velocity, not through any experimental evidence, of course, but simply through reasoning.
- It is remarkable how many of Empedocles' ideas have turned out to be correct.
Born about 492 BC, Acragas (now Agrigento, Sicily, Italy). Died about 432 BC, Peloponnese, Greece.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Italy, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive