TheophrastusBotanist / Philosopher
Born: c. 372 B.C.
Died: c. 287 B.C.
Birthplace: Eresus, Lesbos, Greece
Best known as: Ancient Greek who began the study of plants
Theophrastus was a philosopher of Greek antiquity whose writings on the classification of plants started the science of botany. He probably studied under Plato
; he was certainly a student and close associate of Aristotle
, succeeding him as head of the Peripatetic School at the Lyceum in Athens. Theophrastus led the school for more than three decades and wrote extensively on philosophy and the natural sciences. He continued Aristotle's work and expanded on his ideas, but Theophrastus is known more for his empirical studies of the natural world than teleological discussions about a Prime Mover. Historia plantarum
and Causae plantarum
, the best known of a handful of extant works, are said to be the first effort at describing plants in terms of their similarities and differences, and Theophrastus is said to be the first to design a system of classification. Another of his works that survived is Characters
, a collection of descriptions of undesirable personality types.
Theophrastus is said to have parted ways with Aristotle on the issue of the similarities of humans and other animals, and he is often cited as a “vegetarian” philosopher.
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