Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist, born 384 BC in Stagira in a Northern Greek province of Macedonia, and died alone in 322 BC in Chalkis, in the Greek island of Euboea. He is now regarded as the Father of Modern Science and the Scientific Method, Logic and Biology. He was 62 when he died and at the height of his powers: a scholar whose scientific explorations were as wide ranging as his philosophical speculations were profound; he was a teacher who enchanted and inspired the brightest youth of Greece; a public figure who lived a turbulent life in a turbulent world.


Aristotle bestrode antiquity like an intellectual colossus. No man before him had contributed so much to learning, and no man after him could aspire to rival his achievements. Aristotle studied at Plato’s Academy for about 20 years as Plato’s student and colleague then left the Academy after Plato died to open his own school and research centre in Athens, called the Lyceum. At the Lyceum, he taught the more specialised technical subjects to his students during the day and in the evenings he gave public lectures to a general audience. Aristotle taught the young Alexander the Great from the age of 13 for 4 years after an invitation by King Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander’s father. Aristotle also taught the children of Macedonian nobles.  

Little is known about Aristotle’s character and personality. He came from a rich family. He suffered from poor digestion and is said to have been spindle-shanked. He was a good speaker, lucid in his lectures, persuasive in conversation, and he had a mordant wit. His philosophical writings are impersonal and suggest he prized both friendship and self-sufficiency as a scientist. Although we may not hope to know Aristotle as we might know Albert Einstein or Bertrand Russel, as he lived too long ago, one thing however is certain. Throughout his life, Aristotle was driven by one over-mastering desire- the desire for knowledge. His whole career and his every known activity testify to the fact that he was concerned before all else to promote the discovery of truth and to increase the sum of human knowledge.

Aristotle’s biological works and research are regarded as a stupendous achievement. His inquiries were conducted in a genuine modern scientific spirit, and he was always ready to admit ignorance where evidence was insufficient. He maintained that when there is a conflict between theory and observation one must trust observation and that theories are to be trusted only if their results conform with the observed phenomena. Aristotle wrote a very large number of books in almost every field of human knowledge, from political theory through to ethics, physics, mechanics, astronomy, mathematics, zoology and biology: choose any field of research and Aristotle laboured on it! To quote Aristotle in one of his surviving works, the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that ‘happiness, the state of mind in which humans realise themselves and flourish best, consists in a life of intellectual activity.’ Aristotle asks, ‘is not such a life too godlike for a mere human to sustain?’; he answers: ‘no, for we must not listen to those who urge us to think human thoughts since we are human, and mortal thoughts since we are mortal, rather we should as far as possible immortalise ourselves and do all we can to achieve the finest element in us, for if in bulk it is small, in power and worth it is far greater than anything else.’ Aristotle has influenced many Western thinkers since the renaissance, including Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Bertrand Russel, and continues to influence us even now!


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