The universe and the law of atoms according to Democritus

Atoms are indivisible, indestructible, invisible and eternal. They can have movement and collide with each other, but never divide. The atom is the basis and justification of everything, there is no greater power, there is no greater purpose than the atom. The world and the universe only follow the laws of atoms, there is nothing else.

These were the postulates of the atomistic model made up only of atoms and empty, proposed by the Greek Democritus of Abdera, philosopher , polymath and mathematician, born in 450 BC, in Abdera, located on the coast of Thrace, Greece.

Democritus was also known as the laughing philosopher, as he was always smiling, as he believed that joy was the purpose of life. He was a radical rationalist, considered the "father of physics" or the father of "modern science", his atomic theory of the universe, was based on logical reasoning.

What is the atomic model of Democritus?

According to the atomic model of Democritus, the universe was made up of small indivisible particles, called atoms, characterized by being immutable, permanent and incompressible.

Democritus argued that the grouping of atoms determined the qualities of matter, which consisted of a combination of natural components, distinguished by their shape, dimension, order and perspective, and never by their functioning.


He also affirmed that these particles never come together, and that the particles of a body tend to divide when they collide with other particles in space, transforming into matter. Between the atoms there will be a small amount of vacuum that will distinguish them.

He maintained that reality is made up of homogeneous and indivisible atoms, which represent what it is, and the void, expressed by what it is not. He considered that the star and the moon were masses of atoms that turn, and there are an infinity of worlds. In addition, he defended that the earth was flat and not round.

To exemplify his atomic theory, Democritus pointed out that if a stone is cut in half, the result is that two pieces will emerge, and if this is done consecutively, in the end you would get a stone inside it, which could not be cut, an atom would emerge, which is a piece that cannot be divided.

Finally, according to this atomistic system, “The entire universe is composed of unlimited space in which there are innumerable atoms. Space has no limits, it has neither a top nor a bottom, it has no center or border. Atoms have no qualities apart from their shape. They have no weight, no color, no taste. Heat, cold and color are opinions: in reality there are only atoms, and the void”.

Atoms are indivisible, they are the elementary grains of life, which cannot be further subdivided, and everything is made of them. They move freely in space, colliding with each other”.

Democritus' theorems

Due to his great contributions in the field of arithmetic and geometry, Democritus was thrown two theorems, by means of which he found the formula that enunciates the volume of a pyramid, which can be used to determine the volume of a cone.

The formula was as follows: B*h/3, where B represents the base of the figure and h the height.

Well, according to both theorems, “the volume of a pyramid is one third of the volume of a prism with the same base and height”, and the volume of a cone is equal to one third of the volume of a cylinder with the same base and height. height".

His contribution to science

For this Greek philosopher, everything supernatural is produced by atoms, including man and his actions. For this reason, he is considered the first atheist of all time, and the forerunner of rational thought, since he did not believe in gods. He affirmed that matter is a product of itself, of physics, and not a creation of God.

Similarly, Democritus deduced the existence of two types of knowledge:

Legitimate or true knowledge that starts from the intellectual. According to which everything achieved through the senses comes from reason. Reality is obtained through intuition.

Bastard or gloomy knowledge, which is meager, because it arises from what is perceived through the senses, and the truth according to these, varies according to how it is perceived.

In the field of geometry, Democritus also made his contribution. In that sense, he attributed to the senses of smell and taste, qualities of geometric figures.

Thus, he determined that the smooth and rounded elements were characterized by having a bitter taste, while the circular ones had a sweeter taste. On the other hand, the acid and sour elements were acute and with angles.

Like much of his research, they were oriented to the study of atoms and their composition, based on scientific, physical and realistic theory. Light, and its corpuscular nature, was one of the phenomena he analyzed.

He raised the emission hypothesis -although it was imputed to Newton who presented it years later-, which establishes that objects project certain atoms that are captured by the eyes, achieving vision.

On the other hand, the studies carried out by the Greek philosopher Leucippus, creator of atomism, and Democritus, concluded that there is an infinite number of worlds, made up of an infinite number of atoms or particles. They claimed that the void existed not only in our universe, but in all of infinity.

The works of the philosopher of Abdera

One of his main works was Great Diacosmos , for which he obtained five hundred talents and Little Diacosmos , named after Leucippus, who was his mentor.

Thrasilo de Mendes classified the more than seventy works of Democritus -who was also described as an encyclopedic author-, in tetralogies, depending on the subject, mathematics (twelve works), works on nature (sixteen works), ethics (eight works), literary criticism and the arts (eight works), and technical works (eight works). This latest batch included a couple of works on medicine.

The death of Democritus

Regarding the death of Democritus, it is believed that it could have been in 420 B.C. or 370 - a date that is considered certain today -. As related by the thinkers Aulus Gellius, Tertullian and Cicero, he took his own life due to his old age, progressively reducing the amount of daily food.


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