“Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.”
Our first stargazer, Anaximander, was born in 611 B.C, in the city of our friend, Thales of Miletus. You may recall the Thales argued that the prime substance was water. He was also known for his distinguished works in physics, philosophy, geometry and astronomy. But perhaps his greatest achievement was that he was the teacher and mentor of the man who is now recognized as the founder of modern astronomy.
Imagine living in Anaximander’s community where everyone assumed the world was flat, supported in the vastness of space by pillars, situated in a tent-like universe, with stars equidistant from the earth, wedged around the edges. Then consider our intrepid stargazer, Anaximander, who argued that the world had “depth,” was suspended freely, that the stars, moon and sun were not only at different distances, but also cycled around our three-dimensional earth. Anaximander gave us the theory of the infinite, the topographical universe and the void between the stars.
Anaximander gave astronomy a quantum leap, the genesis of the Western concept of the universe. We know that he was held is great esteem by those who came after, in particular Aristotle, who considered him more as a philosopher rather than a scientist. Perhaps science and philosophy are not that different after all.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
Carl Sagan, Cosmos