Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 73-74


Anaximander of Miletus

  • Anthony F. BeaversAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy and Religion, University of Evansville Email author 

BornMiletus (near Söke, Turkey), circa611 BCE

Anaximander of Miletus is generally regarded as the second philosopher in the western philosophical tradition after Thales. He was the son of Praxiades. Miletus was a commercial city on the coast of Ionia (part of present-day Turkey).

Details of Anaximander’s life are lacking, though it seems certain that he was the first to write a treatise on nature. Only a single fragment of this work remains, in which he announced that the “boundless” or “indefinite” is the first principle or primal “stuff” from which all things originate. Still, his theories are widely attested in the doxography, allowing a general picture of his cosmology.

Departing from the Homeric view that the Earth was a flat plate or disk, Anaximander characterized it as a drum-shaped cylinder suspended in midair. This placement strongly suggested that the heavenly bodies passed through the sky and then under the Earth to reappear again the next day, thereby superseding earlier cosm ...

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