Science and Technology
The Greeks were fascinated with numbers and how they applied to the real world. Unlike most earlier civilizations, they studied mathematics for its own sake and developed complex mathematical theories and proofs.
One of the first Greek mathematicians was Thales. Thales studied geometry and discovered theories (such as Thale's theorem) about circles, lines, angles, and triangles. Another Greek named Pythagoras also studied geometry. He discovered the Pythagorean Theorem which is still used today to find the sides of a right triangle.
Perhaps the most important Greek mathematician was Euclid. Euclid wrote several books on the subject of geometry called Elements. These books became the standard textbook on the subject for 2000 years. Euclid's Elements is sometimes called the most successful textbook in history.
The Greeks applied their skills in math to help describe the stars and the planets. They theorized that the Earth may orbit the Sun and came up with a fairly accurate estimate for the circumference of the Earth. They even developed a device for calculating the movements of the planets which is sometimes considered the first computer.
The Greeks were one of the first civilizations to study medicine as a scientific way to cure illnesses and disease. They had doctors who studied sick people, observed their symptoms, and then came up with some practical treatments. The most famous Greek doctor was Hippocrates. Hippocrates taught that diseases had natural causes and they could sometimes be cured by natural means. The Hippocratic Oath to uphold medical ethics is still taken by many medical students today.
The Greeks loved to study the world around them and this included living organisms. Aristotle studied animals in great detail and wrote down his observations in a book called the History of Animals. He heavily influenced zoologists for years by classifying animals according to their different characteristics. Later Greek scientists continued Aristotle's work by studying and classifying plants.
While the Greeks loved to observe and study the world, they also applied their learning to make some practical inventions. Here are some of the inventions that are typically attributed to the Ancient Greeks.
- Watermill - A mill for grinding grain that is powered by water. The Greeks invented the waterwheel used to power the mill and the toothed gears used to transfer the power to the mill.
- Alarm Clock - The Greek philosopher Plato may have invented the first alarm clock in history. He used a water clock to trigger a sound like an organ at a certain time.
- Central Heating - The Greeks invented a type of central heating where they would transfer hot air from fires to empty spaces under the floors of temples.
- Crane - The Greeks invented the crane to help lift heavy items such as blocks for constructing buildings.
- Archimedes' Screw - Invented by Archimedes, the Archimedes' screw was an efficient way to move water up a hill.
- The word "mathematics" comes from the Greek word "mathema" which means "subject of instruction."
- Hypatia was head of the Greek mathematics school in Alexandria. She was one of the world's first famous female mathematicians.
- Hippocrates is often called the "Father of Western Medicine."
- The word "biology" comes from the Greek words "bios" (meaning "life") and "logia" (meaning "study of").
- The Greeks also made contributions to the study of map making or "cartography."
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