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Leucippus or Leukippos (Greek: Λεύκιππος, first half of 5th century BC) was one of the earliest Greeks to develop the theory of atomism — the idea that everything is composed entirely of various imperishable, indivisible elements called atoms — which was elaborated in greater detail by his pupil and successor, Democritus. A possible earlier candidate for atomism is Mochus of Sidon, from the Trojan War era (13th or 12th century BCE)[1][2][3]

He was most likely born in Miletus,[4] although Abdera and Elea are also mentioned as possible birth-places.[5]



Leucippus was a shadowy figure, as his dates are not recorded and he is often mentioned in conjunction with his more well-known pupil Democritus, who replaced indeterminism with determinism as the ontological cause of atomic movement. It is therefore difficult to determine which contributions come from Democritus and which come from Leucippus.

In his Corpus Democriteum,[6] Thrasyllus of Alexandria, an astrologer and writer living under the emperor Tiberius (14-37 CE) compiled a list of writings traditionally attributed to Democritus to the exclusion of Leucippus.

Leucippus was an Ionian Greek (Ionia, now part of western Turkey), as was Anaxagoras. And he was a contemporary of Zeno of Elea and Empedocles (Magna Graecia, now part of southern Italy). He belonged to the same Ionian School of naturalistic philosophy as Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, he was interested in reality and not idealism as the Italic Eleatics were. Later stories about the influence of Zeno have been questioned by modern studies,[citation needed] also because the ontological conception of being of the Eleatics is static, monistic and deterministic, while Leucippus' is dynamic, pluralistic and indeterministic.

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