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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index A > Anaximander Quotes

(610 B.C. - c. 546 B.C.)

Greek philosopher.

Science Quotes by Anaximander (1 quote)

Men first appeared as fish. When they were able to help themselves they took to land.
— Anaximander
These are certainly not exact words from Anaximander, though it summarizes Plutarch’s version of what Anaximander believed. Although the subject quote is widely seen, no original of Anaximander’s writings survived on this hypothesis. What we know of Anaximander is what other, later, ancient Greek writers handed down in a kind of ancient Greek telephone game. These include Hippolytus, Aetius and Plutarch. Their expressions of what Anaximander believed relate by a general theme, but notably differ in specifics. For the fragmentary evidence, see Felix M. Cleve, The Giants of Pre-Sophistic Greek Philosophy: An Attempt to Reconstruct Their Thoughts (2012), 145-148. An example of the subject quote is given by David M. Neuberger, without quotation marks: Anaximander said men were produced first in fishes and, that when they were able to help themselves, they were thrown up on the land. Opening sentence 'A Call to the Chemist to Purge Industry of its Contamination of Our Coast and Inland Waters', Chemical Age (Oct 1923), 31, No. 10, 431.
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Quotes by others about Anaximander (4)

Anaximander the Milesian, a disciple of Thales, first dared to draw the inhabited world on a tablet; after him Hecataeus the Milesian, a much-travelled man, made the map more accurate, so that it became a source of wonder.
Agathemerus 1.1. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 104.
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Anaximander son of Praxiades, of Miletus: he said that the principle and element is the Indefinite, not distinguishing air or water or anything else. … he was the first to discover a gnomon, and he set one up on the Sundials (?) in Sparta, according to Favorinus in his Universal History, to mark solstices and equinoxes; and he also constructed hour indicators. He was the first to draw an outline of earth and sea, but also constructed a [celestial] globe. Of his opinions he made a summary exposition, which I suppose Apollodorus the Athenian also encountered. Apollodorus says in his Chronicles that Anaximander was sixty-four years old in the year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad [547/6 B.C.], and that he died shortly afterwards (having been near his prime approximately during the time of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos).
Diogenes Laërtius II, 1-2. In G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1957), 99. The editors of this translation note that Anaximander may have introduced the gnomon into Greece, but he did not discover it—the Babylonians used it earlier, and the celestial sphere, and the twelve parts of the day.
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Anaximenes ... said that infinite air was the principle, from which the things that are becoming, and that are, and that shall be, and gods and things divine, all come into being, and the rest from its products. The form of air is of this kind: whenever it is most equable it is invisible to sight, but is revealed by the cold and the hot and the damp and by movement. It is always in motion; for things that change do not change unless there be movement. Through becoming denser or finer it has different appearances; for when it is dissolved into what is finer it becomes fire, while winds, again, are air that is becoming condensed, and cloud is produced from air by felting. When it is condensed still more, water is produced; with a further degree of condensation earth is produced, and when condensed as far as possible, stones. The result is that the most influential components of the generation are opposites, hot and cold.
Hippolytus, Refutation, 1.7.1. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 145.
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The earth is flat, being borne upon air, and similarly the sun, moon and the other heavenly bodies, which are all fiery, ride upon the air through their flatness.
Hippolytus, Refutation 1.7.4. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M.Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 154.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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