Interesting Facts

"Happiness depends upon ourselves" - Aristotle

The Ancient Greeks were the first people to systematically examine the world to discover why it worked the way it appeared to.  Their ideas were so influential that, for two millennia, Western science was influenced almost entirely by Greek ideas.  The Romans, Arabs, and medieval Europeans did little more than enlarge on Greek ideas

The Ancient Greeks played an important part in the development of the alphabet. The first two letters of the Greek alphabet - alpha and beta - have given us the word 'alphabet'.

The known first person who realized the Earth could not be flat was the Greek philosopher Anaximander; around 560 BCE, he suggested that the Earth had a cylindrical shape.

In 230 BCE the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes worked out the circumference of the Earth at 25,000 miles by studying shadows cast by the sun in both Alexandria and Syene on the day of the summer solstice.

In the sixth century BCE, a half-mile tunnel was dug on the Aegean island of Samos under the supervision of the Greek architect Eupalinus. Though the tunnel was started at both ends and worked toward the middle, the two halves met only a couple of feet off-centre, a stunning achievement for those days!

Euclid is the most successful textbook writer of all time. His “Elements”, written around 300 BCE, has gone through more than 1,000 editions since the invention of printing.

Aristotle noticed that dolphins give birth to live young who were attached to their mothers by umbilical cords and classified dolphins as mammals in his book “Generation of Animals”.  Not until the nineteenth century was his statement confirmed by modern science.

The ancient Greeks ground lenses out of quartz crystals and used them for kindling fires.

The navigator and astronomer Phytheas was the first Greek to observe and explain ocean tides, in the Atlantic in the early third century BCE.  He was 2,000 years ahead of his time, for it took that long for tides to be attributed (by Newton) properly to the influence of the moon.  Until Newton's time, most scholars refused to believe that the moon could have any effect on the ocean, especially because one tide each day took place when the moon was not even visible in the sky.

A popular story about Archimedes is that when he discovered the principle of buoyancy in the bathtub, he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse, shouting "Eureka! Eureka!" ("I have found it! I have found it!") That may not have been a very astonishing thing for him to have done as Greeks habitually exercised in the nude, and the sight of a naked male figure meant little to them.

Electrical shocks given by torpedo fish were used for medicinal purposes by the Ancient Greeks.  From the 5th century BCE the Greeks applied torpedo fish on the thorax of sick people in order to stimulate their vital reflexes.

Twenty-three centuries passed between when  the Greek philosopher Xenophane surmised that mountains on which seashells were found must originally have been covered by the sea and the Scottish geologist James Hutton's scientific deduction that made sober sense of what had seemed lunacy.

The first person to propose that everything is made of atoms was the Greek philosopher Democritus, around 440 BCE.  He reasoned that if he were to attempt to cut an object in half over and over again he would eventually reach a tiny grain of matter that could not be cut in half.  Democritus called these hypothetical building blocks of matter "atoms", after the Greek atomos, "uncuttable".

The ancient Greeks constructed pyramids of porous rocks in desert climates, which were used as water catchers. A group of 13 pyramids built at Theodosia in the Crimea around 500 BCE averaged almost 40 feet high and were placed on hills around the city.  As the wind moved through the stones, the changing temperatures throughout the day caused moisture to condense, run down, and feed a network of pipes.

Ancient Greek children played with toys that included rattles, little clay animals, horses on four wheels that could be pulled on a string, yo-yo's, and terra-cotta dolls.