Leucippus of Miletus

Leucippus of Miletus is recognized worldwide as the founder of atomism . Virtually nothing is known about his life, and his book appears to have been incorporated into the complete works of Democritus . No writer after Theophrastus seems to have been able to distinguish his teaching from that of his most famous disciple. In fact, its very existence has been denied, albeit on totally insufficient grounds.

  • When was he born:  5th century BC
  • Where he was born:  Miletus, Turkey
  • When he died:  370 BC
  • Where he died:  Miletus, Turkey

Who was Leucippus of Miletus?

Leucippus of Miletus was a great Greek philosopher recognized as the creator of the atomic theory of matter. Some historians think that Leucippus never existed and that it was an invention of Democritus to gain prestige.

Aristotle gives a clear and intelligible explanation of the way in which Leucippus’s theory arose. According to him, it originated from Parmenides’denial of emptiness , from which the impossibility of multiplicity and movement had been deduced. Apparently Leucippus had discovered a theory that would avoid this consequence.

He admitted that there could be no movement if there was no void, and deduced that it was incorrect to identify the void with that which did not exist. Leucippus was the first philosopher to affirm, with full awareness of what he was doing, the existence of empty space . The Pythagorean void had been more or less identified with ” air, ” but the Leucippus void was really a void .

  • Biography of Leucippus of Miletus
  • Thought
  • Contributions of Leucippus of Miletus
  • Atomic model
  • Arche of Leucippus of Miletus
  • Plays
  • Phrases of Leucippus of Miletus

Biography of Leucippus of Miletus

There is no exact biography of Leucippus, but some authors believe that he reached his peak around the 5th century BC, and that he was probably born and lived his life in the city of Miletus , on the west coast of Asia Minor . He was a great Greek philosopher credited by Aristotle and Theophrastus with having originated the theory of atomism . His contribution has been difficult to distinguish from that of his most famous student, Democritus . Only fragments of the writings of Leucippus of Miletus remain, but two works believed to have been written by him

So little is known about him that even the extent of Leucippus’s contribution to the developed atomistic theory is unknown. His relationship with Democritus, and even his very existence, was a subject of considerable controversy in the years concerned with the nineteenth century.

Most of the reports on early Greek atomism refer to the views of Democritus alone, or to both atomists together; It seems that Epicurus even denied that there was a philosopher known by the name of Leucippus. Aristotle certainly attributes the basis of the atomistic system to Leucippus. Leucippus is sometimes regarded as the author of a work called The Great World System.


His thinking was based on the theory against thinking that Parmenides and Zeno already had . This theory was known by the name of atomist and it explained the principle of all things, which were atoms and emptiness .

He firmly believed that there could be no movement if there was no void. He claimed that all things were made up of an infinite number of particles, and that these particles were invisible and indivisible because they were too small to be seen, and he gave them the name of atoms , which were considered to be in constant motion . When these atoms joined, they could form a being .

Contributions of Leucippus of Miletus

Among the main contributions of Leucippus of Miletus we can mention the Atomist Theory , of which more than 2000 years have passed since it was proposed. It is considered as the fundamental basis of current scientific development . It is also considered as the main contribution the observation of the events of human life seen from a scientific perspective that questioned the true existence of the gods and destiny .

In ancient Greece, the gods were an essential part of culture , idiosyncrasy and politics . Emperors were thought to be chosen by the gods to be represented on earth, therefore the claims of the atomists were revolutionary.

It can be said then that Leucippus was the one in charge of setting a very important precedent in the understanding of reality through scientific observation , leaving aside all religious beliefs.

Atomic model

It is important to mention that for Leucippus of Miletus atoms are eternal , homogeneous , indivisible and invisible and that they differ in shape and size. The properties of matter vary depending on how the atoms are grouped.

His theory became known as the atomic theory of the universe and did not support anything that was not explained by logical reasoning .

He affirmed in his model the existence of a vacuum and the movement of atoms within this vacuum; the deterministic and mechanistic conception of reality; and the formation of the worlds by means of a whirlwind movement of the atoms, by which the heaviest are separated from the lightest and meet in the center, giving shape to the Earth.

Arche of Leucippus of Miletus

Leucippus of Miletus based his arche on atoms , because for him, everything in the universe was created by atoms. They considered determinism very important , this means that they believed that all human beings and everything in nature was determined by the movement of their atoms.


Two important works are attributed to Leucippus of Miletus:

  • The great cosmic order , work in which he exposed the atomist conception of the world.
  • On the mind , a book in which he was in charge of criticizing the theory of Anaxagoras , who said that it was the mind that moved things.

Phrases of Leucippus of Miletus

The only phrase we have reference to is:  Nothing happens at random, but everything is about reason and need is connected .

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