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

Anaximander of Miletus

  • Anthony F. Beavers
Reference work entry

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...

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Selected References

  1. Guthrie, W. K. C. (1962). “Anaximander.” In A History of Greek Philosophy. Vol. 1, The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans, pp. 72–115. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Still the reigning comprehensive study of ancient Greek philosophy.)Google Scholar
  2. Kahn, Charles H. (1960). Anaximander and the Origins of Greek Cosmology. New York: Columbia University Press. (A landmark study still holding ground as the most authoritative text on Anaximander.)Google Scholar
  3. Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven, and M. Schofield (1983). “Anaximander of Miletus.” In The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts, pp. 100–142. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionUniversity of EvansvilleEvansvilleUSA