Aristotle

Aristotle was born in Stagirus (Stagira) in northern Greece. His father was personal physician of the King of Macedonia. Because his father died when Aristotle was young, Aristotle could not follow the custom of following his father’s profession. Aristotle became an orphan at a young age when his mother also died. His guardian, who raised him, taught him poetry, rhetoric, and Greek. At the age of 17, his guardian sent him to Athens to further his education. Aristotle joined Plato’s Academy where for 20 years he attended Plato’s lectures, later presenting his own lectures on rhetoric. When Plato died in 347 BC, Aristotle was not chosen to succeed him because his views differed too much from those of Plato. Instead, Aristotle joined the court of King Hermeas where he remained for three years, and married the niece of the King. When the Persians defeated Hermeas, Aristotle moved to Mytilene and, at the invitation of King Philip of Macedonia, he tutored Alexander, Philip’s son, who later became Alexander the Great. Aristotle tutored Alexander for five years and after the death of King Philip, he returned to Athens and set up his own school, called Lyceum.

Aristotle’s followers were called the peripatetics, which means “to walk about”, because Aristotle often walked around as he discussed philosophical questions. Aristotle taught at Lyceum for thirteen years where he lectured to his advanced students in morning and gave popular lectures to a broad audience in the evening. When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, a backlash against anything related to Alexander led to trumped-up charges of impiety against Aristotle. Aristotle fled to Chalcis to avoid prosecution. He only lived one year in Chalcis and died in Euboea in 322 BC.

Aristotle wrote three types of works: those written for a popular audience, compilations of scientific facts, and systematic treatises. The systematic treatises included works on logic, philosophy, psychology, physics, and natural history. Aristotle’s writings were preserved by a student and were hidden in a vault where a wealthy book collector discovered then about 200 years later. They were taken to Rome, where they were studied by scholars and issued in new editions, preserving them for posterity.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “Aristotle was the first genuine scientist in history … [and] every scientist is in his debt.”

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