The Eclipse of Thales
 
Anything approaching a fully satisfactory explanation of the phenomena of knowledge requires the co-operative efforts of all those who believe that there is a world of real existence independent of human minds and that this real existence can be truly known as it really is.
— Francis Parker, “Realistic Epistemology
 
 
May 28, 685 BC, was the date on which occurred the solar eclipse predicted by Thales of Miletus. He probably did not predict the date, but only the year. Even so, it is the first time in recorded history that a solar eclipse was predicted correctly.

No one knows how Thales was able to predict it. Indeed, he did not even know what caused solar eclipses.

The significance of the eclipse is twofold: First, it permits us to date a particular historical event — a battle between the Lydians and the Medes — with precision to the very day. It is the earliest such event that can be dated with such precision. Second, and more important, it was the first time on record that someone was able to demonstrate that celestial events were orderly, and not caused by the whims of the gods.

We may regard this day as the birthdate for both philosophy and science — a triumph of the human intellect.
 

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Torn Fingernails was last updated May 28, 2017
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