Democritus was an ancient Greek natural philosopher. He was best known for the development of the most accurate early atomic theory of the universe. He is also known as ‘the Laughing Philosopher’ as he was often cheerful while at work. It is believed that Democritus was born around 460 BCE in Abdera, Thrace.

He studied under Leucippus in Thrace. They both believed that all matter is made up of tiny, indestructible units which they called atoms. His work was more scientific than philosophic. This is why he and his work went largely unnoticed in Greece.


Fast Facts: –

  • Democritus was a wealthy heir and believed to have spent his inheritance on travelling so that he could learn from other cultures’ scholars.
  • His travels extended from Greece as far as India to the east and Ethiopia to the south.
  • He is estimated to have written 70 pieces but none have stayed intact.
  • He also studied physics, astronomy, botany, zoology and medicine. His research was not limited to atoms.
  • He believed that truth and falsehood are both subjected to the interpretation of the observer.
  • He did not believe in the existence of any supernatural powers and gave strong emphasis on virtue.
  • He said that the goodness in people is not a biological feature, but a psychological trait that develops with practices.
  • Aristotle considered Democritus as his next competitor for natural sciences.
  • Democritus died in 370 BCE. He was 90 years old at the time of his death.