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Aristotle (384-322 BC), was a very famous Greek philosopher and scientist who made many well known contributions to a variety of fields of study. Most of his philosophy though, had a principal stress in biology, but this article will only focus on his life and his contributions to mathematics.
Aristotle was born at Stagira, in Macedonia, on a peninsula of northern Greece. His father was Nichomachus, a medical doctor, and his mother was Phaetis. Back then, doctors traveled the country tending the sick, rather than the sick visiting the doctor, so Aristotle followed his father on these travels, and was to learn how to become a doctor. Unfortunately, Nichomachus died when Aristotle was ten, so he could not continue to become a doctor. It was a profession passed on only from father to son. Phaetis died at a young age as well, so Aristotle was brought up by his uncle Proxenus of Atarneus, who taught him in Greek rhetoric, and poetry which complemented the biological teachings Nichomachus had given him (O’Connor and Robertson, Internet). In 367 BC at the age of 17, Aristotle attended Plato’s Academy in Athens. After being a student, Aristotle became a teacher at the Academy for 20 years. He taught rhetoric and dialect. Aristotle became the tutor of the king’s son Alexander, who would later be known was Alexander the Great. In 355, when Alexander became king, Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his own school called the Peripatetic. He died in 324 BC of a stomach illness.
Aristotle’s contribution to mathematics was in logic. He developed "rules for chains of reasoning that would, if followed, never lead from true premises to false conclusions (validity rules). In reasoning, the basic links are syllogisms: pairs of propositions that, taken together, give a new conclusion. For example, ‘All humans are mortal’ and ‘All Greeks are humans’ yield the valid conclusion ‘All Greeks are mortal’. In his logic, Aristotle distinguished between dialect and analytic (Encarta, Internet)." He said that dialect only tests opinions for their logical consistency; analytical works deductively from principles resting on experience and precise observation. This was very different from Plato’s Academy’s teachings, where dialect was supposed to be the only proper method for science and philosophy alike (Encarta, Internet) .
Composed by: Jill Kennedy
"Aristotle." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2002. http://encarta.msn.com/ May 8, 2002.
O’Connor, J.J. and E.F. Robertson. "Aristotle." available http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~
history/Mathematicians/Aristotle.html/ May 8, 2002.
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