Early Atomic Theory by Empedocles and Democritus

Empedocles was a Greek philosopher and scientist who lived in Sicily between 492 B.C. and 432 B.C. One of his theories was to describe things around us. Empedocles proposed that all matter was composed of four elements: fire, air, water, and Earth. As an example, stone was believed to contain a higher amount of Earth than the other elements. The rabbit was believed to contain a higher amount of both water and fire than the other two elements.

Another Greek philosopher, Democritus, who lived from 460 B.C. to 370 B.C., developed another theory of matter. He believed that all matter was made of tiny parts. He demonstrated his idea by stating if someone continued to cut an object into smaller and smaller pieces, you would reach the point where the piece was so tiny that it could no longer be cut up and divided. Democritus called these small pieces of matter atomos, meaning "indivisible." He suggested that atomos, or atoms, were eternal and could not be destroyed. During his time, Democritus did not have the means that could prove or disprove his theory or even test it.

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