Thales was one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece. He may have studied in Egypt as a young man and was almost certainly exposed to Egyptian mathematics and astronomy. If he wrote any works, they have not survived.
One story reported by Aristotle tells how he was able to predict a good harvest from observations of weather patterns and bought up all the olive presses in Miletus to prove how mathematics could make him rich. Diogenes Laertius reported that Thales was able to calculate the height of the pyramids by measuring their shadows, and he is said to have used his knowledge of geometry to determine the distance of a ship from the shore. He put his mathematical ability to military use, too. He is said to have predicted an eclipse which then led to a peaceful settlement in a war, and later to have helped King Croesus to get his army across a river by telling him to dig a diversion upstream to reduce the flow of the river until it was possible to ford it.
Thales is credited also with a cosmological model of the Earth as a vast disk floating in water. Ironically, Thales reportedly died of dehydration while watching a gymnastics contest.
the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece - los Siete Sabios de la antigua Grecia
was almost certainly exposed to - (traducción libre según el sentido del texto) casi con seguridad, tuvo acceso a
to report - difundir, dar a conocer
Aristotle - Aristóteles
harvest - cosecha
weather patterns - pautas climáticas
bought up - acaparó
Diogenes Laertius - Diógenes Laercio (historiador griego del siglo III de nuestra era)
shore - costa, orilla (del mar)
peaceful settlement - acuerdo pacífico
King Croesus - Rey Creso
to dig a diversion - cavar una desviación
upstream - río arriba
to ford - vadear
is credited with - se le atribuye
dehydration - deshidratación
gymnastics contest - competición de gimnasia
Nota: en Andalucía contamos con la Sociedad Andaluza de Educación Matemática THALES, que lleva su nombre, precisamente, en honor a Tales de Mileto.
El presente texto ha sido extraído del libro The Story of Mathematics, escrito por Anne Rooney.