Athens Golden Age


The 2004 Olympic Games has brought to my mind the scientific achievements of the ancient Greeks.

Much of our understanding of mathematics and astronomy had their beginnings in Greece.  Around 500 BC Anaximander, born in the Greek city of Miletus, discovered the idea of space and began to map the universe.

The well-known Pythagoras’s theorem was first proved by Pythagoras around 500 BC. But perhaps more important was his discovery of the musical scale, and his proposal that the earth was, in fact, a sphere.

It was Hippocrates, born around the middle of the fifth century BC, that brought science to medicine.  In a day when disease was thought to be the punishment of the gods, Hippocrates said “there are two things, science and opinion — the former begets knowledge the latter ignorance.”

Another great name in Greek science was Democritus.  He was the first to offer an argument for the primacy of the atom in the make up of the universe.

And it was Aristotle, who founded his own school in Athens in 335 BC, who stressed that there was much to be learned by observing nature.  He applied this observational approach to validate or reject a vast range of existing knowledge.

So next time you hear something about Athens, remember it is not just important for the Olympic games.  It was the cradle of considerable scientific knowledge.