Ancient Times Scientist Study: Thales

Scientist Study: Thales

Welcome to a new series of posts about scientists in the ancient world. I will be starting out this series with a Scientist Study on Thales.

Thales is thought to have been the man who began the study of science as we know it. His whole life was spent answering the question of why things happened. He was a very talented mathematician, and discovered many things which are accepted as fact today. Other things he postulated have now been proven to be incorrect. This is what we explored in this first study of scientists in the ancient world.

Scientist Study: Thales – Reading

Scientist Study: Thales

These three books were a perfect addition to our studies. We used the activities from Science in the Ancient World and the other two books were great go-alongs to bulk out our studies.

Scientist Study: Thales – How to Find the Height of an Object too Tall to Measure

The girls stood a 30 cm ruler vertically on the ground, and using a tape measure they measured its shadow and made a note of it:

Scientist Study: Thales

Becca then stood up straight whilst Abs and Lillie measured her height using a tape measure. They made a note of it:

Scientist Study: Thales

Becca then stood straight in the same place as the ruler had been. Abigail measured her shadow and made a note of it:

Scientist Study: Thales

Lastly, the girls measured the shadow of Thomas’ van, which was too high to measure on its own.

Scientist Study: Thales

They then did some maths to find out the actual height of the van. The length of the ruler was divided by the length of its shadow. This is called the factor. The length of Becca’s shadow was then divided by this factor to give a number which was close to her height. It was spot on! Now the girls multiplied the vans shadow by the factor and this gave them a number which they could be fairly certain was very close to the actual height of the van. So cool!

We read The Great Pyramid of Giza book (shown above) which was a little beyond the girls mathematically but was nevertheless useful in explaining why their calculations above worked. Thales measured the heights of the pyramids in Egypt using this method.

Scientist Study: Thales – How to Make Water from Objects Which do not Contain Water

But not everything Thales believed was correct. For example, he believed that everything was made of water, and, according to him, everything would eventually be turned back to water. Obviously, we know that this isn’t accurate. However, the girls did do a fun demonstration of making water appear from apparently nothing…

We grabbed a candle and a glass. After lighting the candle, Becca placed the glass carefully above the flame but not completely covering it:

As the girls watched the glass, they noticed it becoming steamed up:

They then pulled the glass away and watched as the steam disappeared:

Abigail repeated the whole experiment. The girls noticed that when the glass was over the flame it became fogged up with water vapour. When they pulled it away from the flame it became clear once more, but tiny droplets of water could be seen on the side of the glass. The flame had produced water!

Actually, it is the wax and the air which have the components for making water, but this experiment shows perhaps why Thales mistakenly believed that all things turned to water eventually.

Our next famous scientist from the ancient times will be Pythagoras.

For all my other science posts, take a look at my science page


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