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Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Polymath, Father of Scientific Method

Aristotle was born in Northern Greece during the time that his father, Nicomachus was personal doctor to the king of Macedon. Aristotle was neither rich nor poor, but because of his father’s position, he was educated with the upper classes of Greek society.

Aristotle was the student of the famous Greek philosopher Plato at Plato’s Academy. He spent 20 years at the academy both as a student, and later as a teacher.

Aristotle was a polymath; a man who was considered an expert on many different subjects.

Even though Alexander was not interested in Aristotle’s teachings, they soon became good friends. Once Alexander became king, Aristotle founded his own school called “Lyceum”.

Aristotle’s students were known as peripatetics meaning, “Walk about” because they used to follow him around when he walked around and taught his lessons.

Aristotle’s main influences were ancient philosophers, like Plato and Socrates, and his father, who was a doctor.

He applied Socrates’ principals of logical thinking to the real world, which is why he is called the ‘father of scientific method’.

After he open Lyceum his wife passed away, and it was after this period that Aristotle’s major works began.

In the area of physical sciences, his work covered astronomy, anatomy, geography, geology, physics, meteorology (the study of weather patterns), and zoology.

He added the fifth element to earth, water, fire, and air, called ‘aether’ which is the heavenly bodies of stars and planets.

He believed strongly in the study of biology, that each living thing has a built in pattern of development put in by nature, which allows it to grow in a healthy manner.

In his study of botany and zoology, he put all known animals and plants into an understandable order so that it would be easy to study them in the future.

In the area of philosophy, he wrote on ethics, government, metaphysics, politics, economics, psychology, and theology.

Aristotle introduced the concept of causality – that there is more than one “reason” that can explain why things happen a certain way.

His four concepts of causality were material cause, the efficient cause, the formal cause and the final cause.

In the area of education, he studied and wrote about foreign customs, literature and poetry.

Aristotle is especially known for his contribution to the study of formal thought, or logic.

In his study of government, ethics and politics, he put together a system that organized certain types of governments that are still used today.

Aristotle also contributed to theatre, and music. Aristotle first used the term “tragedy” in his poems, which is used so often in plays and poetry up to today.

Aristotle also taught that it was not healthy to fall into extremes, and encouraged man to follow the ‘middle road’ or a balanced life.

He made students and others understand that you need to be good (virtuous) not so you would not be punished, but to be happy.

This was also linked to what Aristotle believed to be a perfect government – one that is not ruled by philosophers (as how Plato believed) but by honourable men who can govern themselves.

Aristotle left Athens after and travelled to his place of birth, where he passed away in 322 B.C at 62 years.