You are here: Science > Great scientists > Aristotle


Aristotle The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) made a massive contribution to many aspects of human knowledge, including physics, biology, astronomy, philosophy and even politics, poetry and music. Aristotle believed that our knowledge is based on direct observations of the world around us. This basic philosophy, called empiricism, was a shift away from that of his teacher, Plato (c. 427–c.347 BC), who believed that abstract thought could explain the nature of things. Many of Aristotle’s “laws of the universe” tended to come from simple observation and reason. But they were not always backed by sufficient facts or careful experimentation that modern scientific method demands before such laws can be accepted.

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael, painted in 1509. Aristotle points to...Read More >>Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael, painted in 1509. Aristotle points to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through observation and experience. Plato points to the heavens, representing his belief in abstract reason.

Early life

Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Stagira in northern Greece. His father, Nicomachus, was a court physician to King Amyntus III of Macedonia. When he was 17 he enrolled at Plato’s Academy in Athens, where he spent the next 20 years as first a student then a teacher. He left Athens after Plato died, travelling to the island of Lesbos, where he researched the botany and zoology of the island. In Assos in Asia Minor, ruled by his friend Hermias, he founded his first school of philosophy. There, he married Pythias, the daughter (or niece) of Hermias. In 342 BC Aristotle was summoned to Macedonia by King Philip II to act as tutor for his son, the future Alexander the Great.

Aristotle was known to the ancient Greeks as Aristoteles. His name means "the best purposeā€.

Q-files now has new sections specially written for younger readers. They are: Living world, Earth, Science, Human body, Prehistoric life, Space, History, Geography and Technology.

Find the answer