Ancient Greek Science

Ancient Greeks (more precisely, the freeborn ancient Greek men) had a lot of spare time, and they used that time to upgrade themselves physically and spiritually, as well as to observe and get to know the world around them.

So they created the foundations for most of the sciences we know today.

  • The Greeks wanted to understand the behavior of nature so that they could predict it.

    They sought patterns and rules everywhere, and wanted to understand the secrets of the universe.

  • The deductive process – one of the first scientific methods in history, the way of making judgments based on a higher principle – was developed in ancient Greece. However, the Greeks falsely believed that they could gain the highest knowledge by deduction.

  • The Greeks did not make clear boundaries between scientific disciplines or between science and non-science.

    They fused philosophy with astronomy, technology, mathematics, medical theory, and many others.

  • Ancient scientists loved to discuss methods and theories, and they often challenged them.

Early Cosmology

  • In the sixth century BCE, Thales, Anaximenes, and Anaximander from Miletus started creating the first known theories about the origin of universe and life.

    They tried to explain earthquakes, lightning, and other natural phenomena, and they came up with amazing ideas on the physical features of things.

  • Thales stated that the earth is supported by water.
  • Anaximander thought the Earth is located in the middle of the universe.
  • Once the theories of Milesian became widely known, others started challenging them. The Atomists, for example, claimed that the universe was infinite and that it consisted of atoms and void.
  • These early schools of thought are now known as the pre-Socratic.

Plato and Aristotle

  • These influential thinkers were not just philosophers in a narrow sense. Both of them – especially Aristotle – wrote extensively about nature and science.
  • Plato wrote the Timaeus, in which he stated that the universe is created by a god, that it has a soul and a purpose. Plato used basic geometry to explain these ideas.
  • Another Plato’s great contribution to science is that he founded the Academy – the prototype of all later academic institutions.
  • Aristotle was interested in the history of science as well as of organizing all existing knowledge and theories.
  • Aristotle wrote the Physics, explained the theory of four elements – earth, air, water, and fire – but he also wrote about the ideas of earlier thinkers without judging them.

Ancient Mathematics

  • In the classic age of Greek culture, the philosopher Pythagoras was obsessed with numbers.
  • Pythagoras thought that planets and the whole universe move in a way that produces music – and he offered mathematical equations to support that.
  • Pythagoras is most famous for the Pythagorean Theorem, musical tuning, a theory of proportions, and the idea that Earth is spherical.
  • Around 300 BCE, another mathematician, Euclid, wrote the Elements – the first ancient scientific publication that is preserved in its original form.
  • Euclid’s major sphere of interest was advanced geometry.
  • Archimedes upgraded the earlier theories, introduced strict proofs in geometry, and developed a thorough mathematical method.

Mechanics and Technology

  • Even though ancient times were the age of manual labor, Greek scientists thought about the building of machines.
  • The first real machines, such as land measurement tools, catapult, various lifting devices, and others, were made thanks to the ancient link between geometry and physics.


  • Ancient astronomy wasn’t strictly separated from astrology.
  • The mathematician Eudoxus made the first known geometrical model of planetary motion.
  • In the third century BCE Aristarchus of Samos came to the conclusion that the Sun is in the center of the Universe – and offered a bunch of mathematical proof to support the idea.
  • The works of ancient Greek astronomers served as the basis for Ptolemy’s the Syntaxis, which became the most famous work of astronomical science for many ages.


  • The Greeks wanted to know the causes of disease and how to prevent it.
  • Many thinkers examined the health issues, and all of their ideas were systematically presented in the Hippocratic corpus.
  • Hippocrates, and other ancient doctors who learned from him, saw health and disease as physical phenomena rather than something that has a connection with gods.
  • These doctors observed the symptoms, used systematic approaches to health.
  • The Greek thinkers came up with the idea of balance, and used dietary regimes to preserve health.
  • Hellenistic doctors Herophilus and Erasistratos started the practice of human dissection to find out more about the human body and how the disease affects it.
  • The ancient works of medicine came to us through the joint theory made by Galen of Pergamum.

Advanced ideas ahead of the time

  • Ancient Greeks invented the first analogue computer, called Antikythera – a complicated clockwork mechanism that was used to predict the positions of stars and planets and to track the four-year Olympic cycle decades in advance.
  • The Greeks also created a prototype of a steam engine, but could not find a way actually to use it.


How the Greeks came to the idea to make sciences?

The wanted to understand the rules of the world they lived in and had enough free time to observe it.

Some of the ancient Greek theories don’t make sense today. Why are they still called science?

It’s because the Greeks started observing the world as nature, and they worked hard to develop strict methods and lots of proof for their theories.

Who said that the world is made of four elements?

Various early thinkers believed that the universe is made of a specific element, but Aristotle was the first to explain these ideas thoroughly.

How did ancient Greeks explain disease?

They believed that disease came as a result of the lack of balance in human body.

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