Sometime around 340 BCE: Aristotle describes his idea of five elements of Matter.
Aristotle was born in around 360 BCE.
He wrote of and studied many topics such as ethics, theater, metaphysics, zoology, poetry, and music. Aristotle was taught by Plato and also taught the renowned Alexander the Great, who was also influenced by his teacher’s scientific knowledge so much so that he insured experts including scientists were present when he conquered so that they could make new discoveries along the way. He did understand much on the world around him. Many state that Aristotle knew everything that was known at the time when he was alive.
Concerning matter, Aristotle had a view that was rather foreign to the modern concept. He believed that there were only five elements: air which was light, earth which was cool and heavy, water which was wet, fire which was hot, and Aether which he viewed as a divine substance which made up the stars and planets. Aristotle believed that all matter was made up either of one of the elements of water air earth and fire or combinations of these four elements, with the exception of stars and planets which were made of aether.
Aristotle’s theory of matter has been proven wrong. Many more elements have been discovered. One only has to look at the periodic table to see this is the case. The only thing Aristotle discovered that caries on to the modern atomic theory is the fact that there are elements, which is implied in Aristotle’s theory. Despite this, Aristotle’s theory did contribute too the atomic theory in another way which was a negative way. This contribution was the delay caused to the emergence of the atomic theory. It has been said that Aristotle discovered much on many areas of science, leading both to ideas causing some of the greatest progresses in science but also to ideas that lead to some of the greatest hindrance to scientific progress. While many biological discoveries lead to progress of understanding human condition, the idea ON MATTER lead to hindrance. Due to the scientific progress some of Aristotle’s ideas brought about, Aristotle was revered in the Middle Ages. His ideas were therefore generally unquestioned. Only in the period of the alchemists did this begin to change. Until then, there were long periods of acceptance of false ideas and concepts designed by a man who made many observations and theories which lead to great progress.