[In Our Time] Aristotle’s Biology

Aristotle’s Biology

07/02/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=63214341
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p0706lr7.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period.

The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development.


Armand Leroi
Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College London

Myrto Hatzimichali
Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge


Sophia Connell
Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen Date: 2019-03-22


  1. Learned for the first time about the office politics of Aristotle – that he lost out to Plato’s nephew to become head of the academy so he went off to Lesbos in disgust.
  2. The discussion of Platonic forms took me back to Anathem, and with telos to Ly Tin Wheedle.
  3. Also interesting: how Aristotle had to sort of handwave how less complex lifeforms could spontaneously germinate.


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