With his discoveries, Anaxamander of Miletus attempted to bring the realm of the unreal to the world where common man could conceive it. As successor and pupil of Thales of Miletus, Anaxamander worked on the fields of geometry, natural science, and astrology. The culmination of his life attempted to define the indefinite or undetermined. He was the first to discover and apply the theory of the unlimited. For a philosopher of this time period, he had many radical ideas. Anaxamander believed many different things about the position of the Earth.
He also published a book, On Nature, which revealed his theories about the evolution of Earth and man. Under the tutelage of Thales, Anaxamander studied numerous things about earth and life. While he did make some contributions to the world of mathematics, his greatest achievements were probably in science and astrology. His most notable accomplishment, however, was the gnomon. The gnomon is the large rod that is erected from the base of the sundial. This led him to other things, such as the prediction of solstices and equinoxes.
His attempts at prediction carried over and allowed him to create maps of both the real and celestial worlds. In addition to his celestial interests, Anaxamander believed that the Earth hung in the middle of the sky and was held there by the pull of objects at either side. Along this line he also believed that the world possessed a cylindrical form. He believed that the Earth was encompassed by a flame, that was broken into pieces in order to generate the sun, moon, and stars. The heavenly bodies, Anaxamander thought, were each a wheel of fire. When holes in the wheel were clogged then an eclipse occurred.
The seas upon the earth were the result of leftover primal moisture. Strong winds came through and dried some places, which are now land; what was left became the seas and oceans. Anaxamanders attempt to bring the world of the unknown to reality was the most difficult task that one could encounter. Well-known for his theory of Apeiron, or the unlimited, Anaxamander pursued the changes of the Earth. He basically thought that apeiron compensated for the many changes the Earth undergoes. As a fragment from Anaxamander says, the unlimited is the first principle of things that are.
It is that from which the coming-to-be takes place, and it is that to which they return when they perish, by moral necessity, giving satisfaction to one another and making reparation for their injustice, according to the order of time. Coming to be is the separation of opposites and does not involve any change in the natural being of a substance. Anaxamander thought that it was neither water nor any other substance, but it is of entirely different nature than that in which the unlimited exists. He believed that all things existed in some place.
Whether they were absent or conspicuous was irrelevant; they still existed. He believed that qualities came into existence, vanished away, only to return again. Anaxamnder took into consideration that there was a storehouse or reservoir from which the qualities that now confront us have separated off and into which, when their contraries come forth in time, they will go back; the process being repeated in reverse, and so on in never-ending cycles. Anaxamander, unlike most philosophers of this time, assessed that the world was created from air, not water.
He assumed that everything was created from nothing. This nothing, however, was actually the unknown. The unknown, as Anaxamander defines it, can best be described as the other half of what is. The undetermined is what is not and cannot be seen. Equally as important are water, land, and fire that were created by the density in the air. Each of these three things, as seen from Anaxamanders point of view, were the origin of all the rest of what exists. Water, of course, was the origin of life. From this water, first came fish that would evolve into what is now man.