Biographies

Democritus of Abdera and the "atomic theory"

Democritus of Abdera and the "atomic theory"

Democritus of Abdera was a pre-Socratic Greek mathematician and philosopher who lived between the years 460 and 370 B.C. in the city of Abdera, in Thrace. Democritus, also known as "the laughing philosopher" was a disciple of Leucippus, a Greek philosopher who is credited with the foundation of atomism.

He studied with numerous magicians and Chaldean scholars that King Xerxes of Persia himself left in his father's house when he stayed there during the Medical Wars against the Greeks. Thanks to this he learned astrology and theology being very young.

One of the main contributions of Democritus was the development of the "atomic theory of the universe", which was originally conceived by his mentor, the philosopher Leucippus. Democritus coined the term "atom" for the first time with this theory.

Thus, the "atomic theory" states that matter is only a mixture of atoms (which in Greek means "indivisible"). These are elements that are immutable, eternal and infinitely small and, therefore, imperceptible to the senses.

This theory can be summarized in the following postulates:

- Atoms are indivisible, homogeneous and eternal.

- The difference between atoms lies only in shape and size, but not in their internal qualities.

- The properties of matter change according to the grouping of atoms.

Thus, according to this theory there can be no ad infinitum division of things, given the infinite nature of atoms.

Likewise, the atomists, with Leucippus and Democritus at their head, considered that the movement was a reality and not a phenomenon. Thus, there would be two causes in reality, on the one hand "what is", cause represented by atoms, and "what is not", which would come to be represented by emptiness. In this way, this "what is not" is what allows the existence of differentiated particles and the space in which they move. Therefore, the movement of atoms in a vacuum is something inherent to them, while they are eternal and always in motion.

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