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(thā`lēz), c.636–c.546 B.C., pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Miletus and reputed founder of the Milesian school of philosophy. He is the first recorded Western philosopher. Thales taught that everything in nature is composed of one basic stuff, which he thought to be water. Prior to Thales, mythology had been used to explain the nature of the physical world; the significance of Thales thus lies not in his answer but in his approach. Although he apparently wrote nothing, he is believed to have introduced geometry into Greece and to have been a capable astronomer. It is said he predicted an eclipse of the sun in 585 B.C. Thales studied practical as well as speculative problems and was acknowledged one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece for his exhortation to unity among the Ionian Greeks.


See G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers (1957).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Born circa 625 B.C. in Miletus in Asia Minor; died circa 547 B.C. Greek philosopher; father of classical and European philosophy and science. Founder of the Milesian school.

According to legend, Thales traveled through Eastern lands and studied with priests in Egypt and with masters of the occult in Babylonia. He posited that all phenomena and things are derived from water, the single primary substance or primary element; according to Thales, everything arises out of water and returns to it. A saying ascribed to Thales is that “all things are full of gods,” meaning that matter is imbued with life and has a soul (hylozoism). Like Homer, he thought of the soul as an ethereal substance. Thales predicted an eclipse of the sun in 585 B.C.


Fragments in Russian translation in A. Makovel’skii, Dosokratiki, part 1. Kazan, 1914. Pages 9–24.


Thomson, G. Pervye filosofy, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959. Pages 145–58. (Translated from English.)
Losev, A. F. Istoriia antichnoi estetiki. Moscow, 1963. Pages 339–43.
Mikhailova, E. N., and A. N. Chanyshev. Ioniiskaia filosofiia. Moscow, 1966. Pages 25–50.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


?624--?546 bc, Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, born in Miletus. He held that water was the origin of all things and he predicted the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 bc
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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