Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae

  • Norriss S. Hetherington
Reference work entry

Born (Greece), 500 BCE

Died (Greece), 428 BCE

The dates for Greek cosmologist Anaxagoras’ birth and death come from Diogenes Laertius, a Greek biographer of the third century, famous for his 10-volume Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Anaxagoras was “said to have been 20 years old at the time of Xerxes’ crossing (the Persian king led an army into Greece in 480 BCE) and to have lived to 72.” Diogenes also cited Apollodorus, an Alexandrian chronographer of the second century who wrote in his Chronicles that Anaxagoras “was born in the 17th Olympiad and died in the first year of the 88th.” (The first year of the first Olympiad was 776 BCE; each Olympiad lasted 4 years).

A major problem for ancient philosophers was how to explain change – how there could be coming-to-be and passing away. Philosophers argued for varying numbers and types of elements that, combining in different proportions, accounted for all known substances. For  Thales, water was the basic matter or principal of things; for  

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Selected References

  1. Gershenson, Daniel E. and Daniel A. Greenberg (1964). Anaxagoras and the Birth of Scientific Method. New York: Blaisdell.Google Scholar
  2. Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven, and M. Schofield (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Olson, Richard (1978). “Science, Scientism and Anti-Science in Hellenic Athens: A New Whig Interpretation.” History of Science 16: 179–199.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BerkeleyUSA