Many school texts and other popular sources claim Thales of Miletus conducted experiments in electricity, showing amber to attract feathers, for example, supposedly.

However, I can find no verifiable source for this anywhere. I have looked in Pliny, Theophrastus, Diogenes Laertius and other authors who mention Thales and NONE of them say anything about doing experiments with amber. (Note that no writings of Thales himself exist). I am beginning to think this is pure apocrypha, this story.

Note: in medieval times Arab scientists often quoted (and misquoted) ancient Greek authors and their sometimes-bogus statements have been then transmitted into English. I am beginning to suspect that could be the case here.

Is this amber-experiment story in a verifiable ancient Latin source or is this Arab fiction?


I guess it's this sentence from Diogenes Laërtius (3rd century CE),

Aristotle and Hippias affirm that, arguing from the magnet and from amber, he attributed a soul or life even to inanimate objects.

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