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Ancient World

Page history last edited by frogheart@... 13 years, 1 month ago

In a time when it seems that almost every idea is being patented, copyrighted, and trademarked, Leucippus stands as an extraordinary figure. This Greek from around 460 BCE (before the common era) not only gave away his ideas about atoms, he didn't even write them down.


As a natural philosopher, Leucippus was concerned with understanding the nature of life and he posited that matter was made up of atoms. It is extraordinary to realize that in a time when most were appeasing multiple gods in the hope of being granted favours, that Leucippus would look around and determine that matter was made up of tiny bits not visible to the naked eye.


Luckily for Leucippus and his ideas, another natural philosopher (and student of his), Democritus, adopted the idea and wrote it down. Not much of Democritus's work survived but the ideas he preserved and developed were discussed and further preserved  in commentaries by Aristotle, Epicurus, Lucretius, and, finally Galen (129-215 CE).


By Galen's time there were two main 'atomistic' concepts, Democritean and Epicurean. Titus Lucretius Carus (aka Lucretius, 99 - 55 BCE) produced a six volume poem, 'De Rerum Natura' or 'On the Nature of Things', which elucidates the Epicurean perspective on atoms as well as other matters. Galen appears to have been the last to document atomistic concepts of any kind for at least 1300 or more years. Somehow, discussions re-ignited during the Renaissance and continued into the 19th century. (By 1841, there was a doctoral dissertation written [eventually published in 1902], 'The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature'. The author is Karl Marx.)[1][2][3]


Jump back

Nano through the Ages


Jump points

Middle Ages

Modern Times


Leaving the mysteries

Karl Marx's doctoral dissetration


  1. The Big View, (n.d.) Leucippus and Democritus. [Online essay] (Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www.thebigview.com/greeks/democritus.html)
  2. Wikipedia (n. d.) Atomism. [Online essay] (Accessed October 7, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomism)
  3. Wikipedia (n. d.) Lucretius. [Online essay] (Accessed July 4, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucretius)

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