Science in Ancient Greece

In her lecture series Professor Edith Hall will look at the scientists of ancient Greece, from the first scientists in around 600 BCE to the great engineer and polymath Archimedes in the 3rd century and the birth of rational medicine and medical ethics in the 5th to 7th centuries.

Professor Edith Hall is Visiting Gresham Professor in Classics. She is a British scholar of classics, specialising in Ancient Greek Literature and cultural history. She is also Professor in the Department of Classics and Centre for Hellenic Studies at King's College London. (from

Lecture 1 - Physics: Its Birth in Greek Ionia

Lecture 1 - Physics: Its Birth in Greek Ionia
The study of the natural and physical world from a scientific viewpoint began in Greek cities on the western coast of Turkey around Miletus in about 600 BCE. The first scientists were known as physiologoi, or men who discoursed about nature (physis). Each tried to put his various observations together in a way that constituted a coherent, unified model. This lecture discusses the pioneering physical theories of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras and Democritus.

Lecture 2 - Engineering: Archimedes of Syracuse
In the 3rd century BCE, the Sicilian polymath Archimedes significantly advanced human understanding of mathematics, geometry and astronomy. By applying his discoveries to practical problems and physical phenomena, he became the founder of statics and hydrostatics, demonstrating how levers work and in turn creating unprecedented war machines such as "Archimedes' claw" and "heat-ray".

Lecture 3 - Hippocrates and Ancient Greek Medicine
The birth of rational medicine contributed to the scientific revolution which occurred amongst eastern Greek communities in the 7th-to-5th centuries BCE. Medical professionals still take the oath of the ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates of Kos, preserved along with his medical treatises. They are a consummation of many decades of medical practice and empirical observation, showing methods similar to the eastern Aegean natural scientists in seeking physical causes rather than supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, whether related to geology, weather, disease or injury.

Related Links
Ancient Discoveries
This series features technologies and inventions from ancient Greece, Egypt, China and the East.
A collection of books and films related to Archimedes (Greek, 287 BC-212 BC) who was a Greek mathematician and physicist, including the works of Archimedes and Infinite Secrets of Archimedes.
Works by Hippocrates
This is a collection of eBooks of Works by Hippocrates, a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Greece).
The Ascent of Man
This is a 1973 BBC documentary series written and presented by Jacob Bronowski, looking at human history through scientific and technological achievements from the prehistoric era to the mid-20th century.