What Did Aristotle Say About the Atomic Theory?


Jane Flores

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, is known for his contributions to various fields, including physics. He proposed several theories about the nature of matter and the universe, but his views on the atomic theory were quite different from what we know today.

What is the Atomic Theory?
The atomic theory is a scientific model that explains the properties and behavior of matter in terms of tiny particles called atoms. It states that all matter is made up of atoms that are indivisible and indestructible.

Aristotle’s Views on the Atomic Theory
Aristotle rejected the atomic theory proposed by Democritus, another Greek philosopher. According to Aristotle’s view, everything in the universe was made up of four elements: earth, water, air, and fire.

These elements had specific qualities such as hotness or coldness, wetness or dryness. Different combinations of these elements resulted in different types of matter.

Aristotle believed that these elements were continuous and could be divided infinitely. He argued that there was no smallest or indivisible particle like atoms.

The Arguments Against Aristotle’s Views
While Aristotle’s theory seemed plausible at the time, it was later proven incorrect by empirical evidence. In the 17th century, modern scientists such as Robert Boyle and John Dalton conducted experiments that showed that matter was indeed composed of small particles called atoms.

Dalton also proposed an atomic theory that explained how atoms combined to form molecules and compounds with specific properties. This theory was further refined by other scientists such as J.J. Thompson and Ernest Rutherford in the early 20th century.

  • Thompson discovered electrons which led to a better understanding of how electrons occupy space around an atom.
  • Rutherford proposed a model where most of an atom’s mass is concentrated in its nucleus.


In conclusion, Aristotle’s rejection of the atomic theory might have been based on his limited knowledge and lack of empirical evidence. His theory of elements was later proven incorrect by modern science, which has since provided a better understanding of the structure and behavior of matter.

It is essential to note that Aristotle’s contributions to philosophy and other fields are still significant today. His work laid the foundation for many scientific discoveries and advancements, including the atomic theory.