a1 University College of the West Indies
The Greeks attributed to Thales a great many discoveries and achievements. Few, if any, of these can be said to rest on thoroughly reliable testimony, most of them being the ascriptions of commentators and compilers who lived anything from 700 to 1,000 years after his death—a period of time equivalent to that between William the Conqueror and the present day. Inevitably there ilso accumulated round the name of Thales, as round that of Pythagoras (the two being often confused), a number of anecdotes of varying degrees of plausibility and of no historical worth whatsoever. These and the achievements credited to Thales have, of course, been painstakingly brought together by Hermann Diels in Der Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. Useful and necessary (though not entirely comprehensive) as this work undoubtedly is, it nevertheless has probably contributed as much as any other book to the exaggerated and false Aew of Thales which we meet in so many modern histories of science or philosophy, and which it is the purpose of this article to combat.