Father of Science (384-322).
Most of us have at some time or other, read about the great scientists who made civilization what it is now. Some familiar names may be Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Mendel and others down to Einstein. But there is one name that should stand out in the history of Science and it is that of Aristotle, the pioneer among scientist.
It is said that Socrates gave philosophy to humankind and Aristotlegave it science. Aristotle founded several branches of science. So he is rightly called the ‘Father of Science’. He founded the studies of Logic, Physics, Biology, Psychology, Aesthetics, Ethics, Politics and Metaphysics, and laid the foundation of Library Science by writing a treatise on the classification of books. These are in addition to his studies on Astronomy and Philosophy.
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. at Stagira, a city in the kingdom of Macedonia, Greece, nearly twenty-two centuries ago. He was a pupil of Plato, and Plato was a pupil of the great Socrates. Aristotle himself had a very famous pupil-Alexander the great. Besides Aristotle father was friend and physician of Amyntas, king of Macedonia and grandfather of Alexander.
There are two narratives about the younger days of Aristotle. One, that he was reckless youth spending all his money, and then joining the army to avoid starvation. Finally the story says he returned to his home town and practiced medicine till the age of thirty.
The second narrative says that he went to Athens at the age of eighteen to join Plato’s school which was called the ‘Academy’. It also hints that his life was somewhat riotous. His studies and findings suggest that he spent a long time under Plato’s tutelage. So the story that he joined the Academy at eighteen must be nearer to the truth than the other one.
Plato recognized the greatness of his pupil and he once spoke of him as ‘Intelligence Personified’. But they didn’t really get along well with each other: two geniuses seldom do!
He married when he was forty, the sister of one of his students. A year after his marriage, Philip, the king of Macedonia, invited him to undertake the education of his son, Alexander. Philip was the most powerful ruler of his time, and it shows how highly Aristotle was regarded as a scholar.
When Aristotle met Alexander, the latter was a wild boy of thirteen. The prince’s favorite hobby was taming horses which were as wild as himself. Bucephalus, the horse on which Alexander rode forth to conquer the world, was tamed by him and it got very attached to him in the end.
Alexander’s father, king Philip, was conquering countries around Macedonia. He wanted to unify Greece and so conquered Athens, the most important city in the state of Greece. It is said Alexander lamented that his father wouldn’t leave him any countries to conquer.
To what extent could Aristotle mould Alexander’s character? Alexander loved and cherished his teacher as if he were his own father. However, despite his best efforts, Aristotle was unable to turn his royal pupil into a scholar. It is said that Alexander had better success with Bucephalus than Aristotle had with Alexander! But his close association with a great teacher like Aristotle must have influenced Alexander. He derived a passion for order to an order-less world that he went about conquering it.
Anyway, the period of tutelage wasn’t long. Philip was killed by an assassin, and Alexander ascended the throne. Soon after, he went riding around the world on a conquering spree.
After a short period of travel, Aristotle returned to Athens in the year 334 B.C. and after two or three years, established his famous school, the Lyceum. The Lyceum was not mere copy of Plato’s Academy was devoted to Mathematics and Philosophy, whereas Aristotle himself had studied; the Academy Aristotle’s Lyceum favored biology and other natural sciences.
The help and assistance this school received from Alexander was great indeed. Alexander gave Aristotle the sum of 800 talents, a huge amount, for equipment and research. Besides, he instructed all the hunters, gamekeepers, gardeners and fishermen in his empire to furnish Aristotle with all zoological and botanical specimens and material that he might require. It is reported that at one time Aristotle had a thousand men from Alexander’s vast empire at his disposal for collecting specimens of fauna and flora (animals and plants) of every land. At his suggestion, Alexander even sent a costly expedition to explore the sources of the Nile and discover the causes of its occasional floods. Alexander’s assistance to Aristotle is the first instance in the world history of large scale financing of science by the government. And it is doubtful whether any other state has ever supported scientific research on such a lavish scale.
People do not like those who invade their country and rule over them. The Athenians despised the Macedonians who had invaded their country and now ruled them. Aristotle was a Macedonian and hence he was not liked by the Athenians despite his learning. Athens had long been the centre of culture, and therefore the people regarded the Macedonians as barbarians. Also, Aristotle supported Alexander openly which did not help his standing with his Athenians.
This situation made both Aristotle and his school in Athens insecure. He had to work in a hostile environment, though under royal patronage. It could not have not been a quiet pursuit after knowledge, and finally, Aristotle came to a tragic end in Athens.
The Athenians, hungering for liberty, focused on Aristotle. Their anger reached its zenith when Alexander had a statue of Aristotle put up in the heart of Athens. This made Athens boil with hostility. Here we meet with fighter in Aristotle. With the city in turmoil, he went calmly about his great work, encircled by enemies in every side.
When suddenly, Alexander died, Athens went wild with joy and the Macedonians were driven out in no time. Athenian independence was declared.
Aristotle was convicted of impiety. He was himself fated to be tried by juries and crowds hostile to him and wisely left the city. There was no cowardice in this as Athens always gave an accused person the option of leaving the city
He went to the city of Chalcis and there, fell ill and died. It is said that his death wasn’t due to natural causes, but that, lonely and disappointed, he committed suicide by drinking poison.
Thus ended the life of the founder of organised science and one of the greatest philosophers of all time.