It’s pretty possible that you’ve heard at least one of the following “immortal” quotes at some point during your life: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom,” “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness,” “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives—choice, not chance, determines your destiny,” and “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.”
The common thread among the quotations above is that they all came from one of the most influential human beings who walked the planet: Aristotle. Along with Socrates and Plato, Aristotle is widely considered one of the greatest philosophers and thinkers who ever lived, and his impact on science and philosophical thought continues to this day, almost 2,400 years after his death. In case you don’t know some of the facts that make Aristotle such an influential person in human history, here follows a list of 25 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Aristotle that won’t fail to enlighten you.
He was born in 384 BCE in Stagira, a small city in ancient Macedonia on the northern periphery of Greece.
He came from a well-respected and wealthy family. His father was a doctor and the personal physician to King Amyntas of Macedon.
Aristotle was married to Pythias, one of the few female biologists and embryologists of her time. She bore Aristotle a daughter, whom they also named Pythias.
When his wife, Pythias, died, Aristotle became involved with her slave Herpyllis; with her he had a son.
He named his son Nicomachus after his father, but unfortunately Nicomachus died in battle when he was still young. The Nicomachean Ethics, a compilation of Aristotle’s lecture notes, was so named in his honor.
When Aristotle was a young man, Athens was the richest city and most famous cultural center of the age. He went to Athens when he was seventeen and lived there for the better part of his life.
There he became a student of Plato at the famous Academy and soon became his favorite student. Years later, Aristotle would found his own school, the Lyceum.
He would eventually return to Macedonia for ten years from 345 to 335 BCE, where he would become Alexander the Great’s tutor.
Aristotle might be famous for being the tutor of Alexander the Great, arguably the greatest general who ever lived, but few are aware that he was also the teacher of Cassander and Ptolemy, both of whom would eventually be crowned kings of the Kingdom of Macedon and Egypt, respectively.
Alexander and Aristotle became great friends at some point. Alexander appreciated Aristotle so much as a friend and teacher that he would collect specimens from the lands he conquered and send them to Aristotle as trophies.
Many historians believe that Aristotle loved Alexander as his own son, and this might not be too far from the truth. Soon after Alexander’s death, Aristotle would close his school in Athens and die within a year (322 BCE) of the famous general.
Aristotle composed two types of works: the first was destined for the general public and thus was far more comprehensible, while the other was designed for students and teachers of philosophy.
He wrote many books and kept notes to help teach his students. Unfortunately, most were lost and only one-third of his writings have survived.
Contrary to his great predecessors Socrates and Plato, Aristotle introduced a new form of philosophy and studying where he looked for clues and proofs.
Aristotle invented a new field of science called Causality - a science of causal investigation into a specific area of reality.
He’s widely considered the first famous polymath in history. Other than philosophy, Aristotle also focused on scientific fields such as biology, zoology, astronomy, and botany. He even traveled with a friend of his, Theophrastus, to the island of Lesbos and studied its plant and animal life.
To get an idea how important his contributions to botany were, keep in mind that he was the first to explain that a plant thrives best in a “favorable place,” or as an ecologist would say today, in its “niche.”
Aside from science, Aristotle also contributed to the fields of ethics, logic, metaphysics, music, poetry, politics, and theater. For example, in a surviving portion of his book entitled Poetics, he discusses tragedy and epic poetry.