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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Aristotle"

Aristotle [Astro*Index]

(ar'is-totl) (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher.

Born in Stagira, in northern Greece, and died in Chalcis, on the Aegean island Euboca (Evvoia). His father had been court physician to Amyntas II, King of Macedon, a semi-Greek kingdom located inland from Stagira, with which the family was closely connected. Losing both parents while yet a child, he was raised by a family friend. He went to Athens at age 17 and joined Plato's Academy, becoming the most famous of all Plato's students. He left the school upon Plato's death, in 347 BC, under clouded circumstances (which may have been related to his family's ties to the foreign state of Macedon), travelling throughout the Greek world and in Asia Minor. When Amyntas II died, in 342 BC, he was succeeded by his son, Philip II, who called Aristotle to Macedon to tutor his 14-year old son, Alexander, who became Alexander the Great. Six years later, in 336 BC, Phillip II was assassinated, and was succeeded by Alexander III. The following year Aristotle returned to Athens, while Alexander began a great conquering campaign with his invasion of Persia. Callisthenes, Aristotle's nephew, became a general in Alexander's army. At the fall of Babylon, about 331 BC, Callisthenes sent to his uncle a large collection of Babylonian tablets, including the solar and lunar tables of Naburiannu and Kidinnu (Cidenas). These tables had a profound affect on Greek astronomers, who immediately set about the task of understanding their function and use. In these tables, the vernal point was placed in 10 Aries and 8 Aries, respectively, which led to much confusion among the Greeks of that day, and for centuries thereafter. In 327 BC, Callisthenes was executed by the megalomanic Alexander. Upon his return to Athens, Aristotle founded his own school, the Lyceum, and amassed a collection of manuscripts which later became the nucleus for the great Alexandrian Library. News of the death of Alexander the Great at Babylon arrived in 323 BC, and Aristotle retired to Chalcis, where he died the following year. His lectures represented a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge of his day, augumented by his own thoughts, and occupied 150 volumes. Of these only about 50 have survived; they were discovered, about 80 BC, in a pit in Asia Minor, by men in the army of the Roman general Sulla, and were brought to Rome where they were recopied. His work in the systematic approach to logic ultimately led to the modern field of Symbolic Logic, pioneered by George Boole, which has played such a major role in the design of electronic computers. His work in the field of biology represents his most successful scientific work. In his studies of planetary motion, he accepted the heavenly spheres of Eudoxus and Callippus, increasing the number to 54, apparently regarding them as actual physical entities, whereas Eudoxus used them as merely aids to computation. He accepted the four elements of Empedocles (Fire, Earth, Air, Water), but proposed that the heavens were composed of a fifth, called aether. After the fall of Rome, his works were lost to Europe, but preserved by the Arabs, to be later translated from Arabic into Latin during the 12th and 13th centuries, when Christian Europe became powerful. In complete contrast to Aristotle's own aversion to blind obedience, his written views came to be regarded with near-absolute authority, until overthrown during the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.


See also: ♦ Sidereal Zodiac ♦ Ayanamsha


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine


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