History of Ideas by Shelby Peters

  • Period: 2575 BCE to 2150 BCE

    Old Kingdom of Egypt

    This was the period in Egyptian history when most of the pyramids were built. The pyramids were tombs built by and for the pharaoh so that when he/she dies they will have their possessions with them in the afterlife. The idea of the afterlife was the main focus of Egyptian life.
  • Period: 625 BCE to 546 BCE


    Thales is considered to be the first philosopher and scientist. He is famous for trying to solve the question: What in the universe stays constant when everything else is changing? Thales proposed that water is the solution because water exists in all three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. This question and hypothesis led to two remarkable findings: 1) it was possible to come up with solutions without relying on mysticism and 2) it shows that it is possible for mankind to understand the world.
  • Period: 580 BCE to 500 BCE


    An ancient Greek mathematician who was one of the first people to connect math to material things in everyday life, such as music. He determined that ultimate reality was composed of numbers. Through his invention of the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagoras discovered irrational numbers but that was a frightening idea as it posed a problem to the rational world.
  • 563 BCE

    Siddhartha Gautama

    Siddhartha Gautama
    Also known as the “Buddha”, Siddhartha Gautama was born in India around 563 BC. He was plagued by the suffering of the world and he sought to understand its purpose. His quest led him to sit under a tree in order to seek enlightenment and liberation. Once he found it, he determined that there was a Noble Eightfold Path that led to the liberation of suffering and this path consisted of Four Noble Truths. Gautama formed Buddhism and his followers are known as Buddhists.
  • Period: 551 BCE to 479 BCE


    One of the most famous teachers in Chinese history, Confucius believed that qualifications for leadership should be based on merit and not birth. He believed that a person’s education and skill should determine if his fit or not to lead, not if that person was born to a wealthy family or not. Confucius desired that China would abandon its feudal system return to their “Golden Age”, a time when the country had an organized government and society.
  • Period: 527 BCE to 323 BCE

    Classical Greece

    This is the period when Greek culture was at its peak of art and cultural influence. The three greatest Greek philosophers lived during this time along with the conqueror Alexander the Great. This period of Greece’s history would end with the death of Alexander in 323 BC as the empire would loose its influence after his death.
  • Period: 470 BCE to 399 BCE


    A famous Greek philosopher who taught Plato. Socrates focused his philosophy on ethics and how to live a virtuous life. He is also considered to be the father of Western philosophy. Most of what we know about Socrates’ life is found in Plato’s “Dialogues”.
  • Period: 460 BCE to 370 BCE


    Known as the “Laughing Philosopher”, Democritus is the father of the atomic theory. He believed that every material thing was made up of tiny particles that were infinite in number and eternal. This is one of the key theories that Newton would prove to be true more than a 1,000 years later.
  • Period: 428 BCE to 348 BCE


    One of the most famous philosophers of all time, Plato believed in ideal forms where things on this earth were only a shadow of those ideals. He came up with three allegories to explain this belief: the sun, the divided line, and the cave. He is also famous for founding The Academy, a famous ancient school in Athens, Greece.
  • Period: 384 BCE to 322 BCE


    The famous tutor of Alexander the Great, Aristotle was an excellent Greek philosopher whose ideas founded the nature of thought for centuries to come. One of his major contributions was his belief in the Unmoved Mover. Aristotle thought that the nature of objects was found in the state of rest and in order for that object to be moved, it had to rely on the Unmoved Mover to be set in motion.
  • Period: 356 BCE to 323 BCE

    Alexander the Great

    Leader of the Greek Empire who conquered many nations. His success as a conqueror lead to the spread of Greek language and culture to many parts of the world.
  • Period: 341 BCE to 270 BCE


    Ancient Greek philosopher who founded Epicureanism. Epicurus believed that pleasure was the chief goal in life. He was also an atomist who believed that since life was only composed of atoms, there was no afterlife and thus it is permissible to live by our desires.
  • Period: 106 BCE to 43 BCE


    Roman politician and orator who was able to take the lofty ideals of the Greeks and be able to apply it to Roman life and communicate it to the average Roman. He is considered to be the father of the constitution as he believed in a government of laws and not of men. He understood that in order for the constitution to work, all people must have belief in its authority and this idea greatly influenced the thinking of the founding fathers of America.
  • Period: 95 BCE to 51 BCE


    A famous follower of Epicurus, Lucretius is knowns for his poem called “On the Nature of Things”. In this poem, Lucretius displays great skill in his ability to communicate two very different philosophical thoughts, Stoicism and Epicureanism, and combine them together in one piece of literature. He is successful for he was able to communicate those two ideas in a way that his every-day contemporaries could understand and the same is true today.
  • Period: 27 BCE to 476

    Roman Empire

    The Roman Empire is famous for its law, powerful army, and architecture. It was during this empire’s time of existence when Christ was born and the early church was persecuted but it would also be the first empire to legalize Christianity in 313 AD by Emperor Constantine.
  • Period: 4 BCE to 30

    Jesus Christ

    The Son of God who came to earth to be born of a virgin in order to reconcile men to Himself through His sacrificial death on the cross. He lived a sinless life that was characterized by grace and love for the sinner. The Kingdom He preached was revolutionary as he condemned the prideful and self-righteous while exalted the lowly, weak, and humble.
  • Period: 203 to 270


    Greek philosopher who founded Neoplatonism. Neoplatonism is the belief in a hierarchy of the world with the “One” at the top followed by the “nous” (rational intelligence), the “world soul” (time, space, laws, etc.), and “the sense world” which is where human beings are. The “One” is considered beauty that overflowers to human beings. Those with deformities are not considered beautiful, which is evidence of not having the “One” in them, leading to the belief that they are not worthy of live.
  • 325

    Nicene Creed

    Nicene Creed
    Created at the First Council of Nicaea, the creed is a statement of Christian beliefs that is still widely held today. The creed affirms God as Creator, Christ’s deity, and the role of the Holy Spirit thus confirming the Trinity.
  • Period: 354 to 430


    A Christian philosopher and theologian who is famous for his book called “The City of God”. In his philosophy, Augustine combined Christian theology with Neoplatonism. He wanted a deeper understanding on two things in life: God and the soul.
  • Period: 476 to 1350

    Middle Ages

    The time of Europe between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Renaissance, the Middle Ages was when theology was at its highest peak. Education was highly valued as scholasticism was the preferred form of education and public universities began to open throughout the continent. Emphasis was placed on the fact that humans, as creatures made in the image of a rational God, have the capacity to understand the world around them through their rational faculties.
  • Period: 571 to 632


    Founder of Islam who claimed to have visions from the angel Gabriel who told him he was a messenger for God. His followers are Muslims and they are the leading religion in the Middle East today.
  • Period: 1095 to 1291


    A series of religions wars between European Christians and Muslims of the East. These wars were encouraged by the Pope as it was seen as a holy endeavor to claim the holy sites from the grasp of the Muslims but Europe was ultimately defeated.
  • Period: 1225 to 1274

    Thomas Aquinas

    The most famous scholastic of the Middle Ages, Aquinas was a devout Catholic who was a theologian and philosopher. He believed that God’s existence could be proven through natural theology and this became the foundation for his arguments. He combined Aristotle’s philosophy with Christian theism to come to his conclusion.
  • Period: 1299 to

    Ottoman Empire

    Muslim empire that was one of the longest lasting empires of human history. The homeland of the Ottoman Empire was modern day Turkey but they conquered much of Southeast Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. They were finally destroyed in the aftermath of World War I as the result of losing the war alongside the Central Powers.
  • Period: 1350 to


    A cultural movement that was focused on ancient civilization such as Rome and Greece. Artists, educators, and politicians began to look backwards in time to find meaning and purpose. Emphasis was placed on texts of ancient antiquity and the idea of humanism began to shift cultural thinking.
  • Period: 1428 to 1521

    Aztec Empire

    An empire in modern day Mexico that ruled their subjects with fear. The empire began when the Aztecs formed an alliance with the Texocans and the Tacubans and was defeated when the Spanish conquistadors invaded their land. The Aztecs are known for their practice of child sacrifice. They believed that sacrificing beautiful children would appease the gods.
  • Period: 1438 to 1532

    Inca Empire

    The largest empire in the world at that time, the Inca Empire stretched from the north of modern-day Ecuador all the way down to Chile. The empire built a system of roads that rivaled those of Rome and they built a city high in the mountains, Machu Picchu, whose foundations have survived to this day. Like the Aztecs, the Inca also relied on child sacrifice to appease the gods.
  • 1440

    Invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press

    Invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press
    Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press. This invention was one of the most influential technological advances because it made literature more accessible to the masses. This led to increased literacy rates and now, more than ever, different ideas and beliefs began to be sweep across the continent of Europe, leading to revolutions such as the Reformation and French Revolution.
  • Period: 1446 to 1536


    A Dutch humanist in the Renaissance, Erasmus was a hugely influential scholar of his day. He is famous for translating the New Testament into Greek, encouraging classical education.
  • Period: 1452 to 1519

    Leonardo da Vinci

    A skilled inventor and artist, da Vinci is described as the perfect Renaissance man because he was skilled and knowledgeable in many areas and subjects. He is most famous for his painting named the "Mona Lisa”.
  • Period: 1473 to 1543

    Nicolaus Copernicus

    A Polish monk who is famous for going against the Catholic Church by claiming the sun is in the middle of the universe instead of the earth. He was deemed a heretic because this went against Catholic teaching and tradition.
  • Period: 1483 to 1546

    Martin Luther

    A German Christian who led the Protestant Reformation. He started this movement when he nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of All Saints’ Church. This document called the Catholic Church out on their teachings and traditions and showed how it went against Scripture.
  • 1492

    Columbus' Discovery of the Americas

    Columbus' Discovery of the Americas
    Christopher Columbus discovered a new world, the Americas, when he sailed west from Spain in hopes to find a different route to India for trade.
  • 1517

    Protestant Reformation

    Protestant Reformation
    Led by Martin Luther, the Protest Reformation was a movement that created a new church that split from Catholic control. This branch of Christianity is called Protestantism. The Reformation took place because leaders, like Luther and Calvin, were unhappy with the way the Catholic Church was dominating every area of life and preached that tradition has as much power and authority as Scripture.
  • 1543

    Scientific Revolution

    Scientific Revolution
    Intellectual movement that lasted for several centuries. This movement marks the beginning of modern science by new discoveries and inventions of this time. Major scientists behind the revolution were Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, and Kepler.
  • Period: 1561 to

    Francis Bacon

    The father of induction argument, Bacon challenged scholastic education by determining that learning takes place when a person observes the world around him/her. It begins with observing the world and then asking questions about those observations. The induction method of argument leads to possibilities and not certainties. This type of argumentation paved the way for scientific discoveries.
  • Period: 1564 to


    A famous astronomer of the Renaissance, Galileo was the inventor of the telescope. This invention allowed him to observe the sky and determine that the universe was much larger than previously thought.
  • Period: 1571 to

    Johannes Kepler

    German astronomer who was able to determine that the planets do not move in a perfect circular motion but instead in elliptical movements and that they all travel at different speeds. His findings were able to confirm the idea of a heliocentric universe proposed by Copernicus.
  • Period: to

    Thomas Hobbes

    A British philosopher, Hobbes believed that the nature of man was selfish and in order to control the awful nature of man, man needed a strong government to control them. He is famous for his book “Leviathan” and for stating the phrase “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
  • Period: to

    René Descartes

    Considered to be the father of modern philosophy, Descartes abandoned Aristotelian thought and proposed a version of mind-body dualism. He is famous for coining the term “I think, therefore I am”.
  • Period: to

    John Jocke

    A major Enlightenment thinker whose ideas on freedom and human right influenced the founding fathers of America. Locke was in favor of perfect freedom without a monarchy because he believed that the natural state of men was good. He is famous for proposing the social contract theory and for believing in “life, liberty, and property.”
  • Period: to

    Isaac Newton

    The most famous scientist of the scientific revolution, Newton is known for his works in mathematics, physics, astronomy, and theology. Newton developed the three laws of motion, invented calculus, discovered gravity, and developed theories of optics. His quest for learning inspired many to abandon the superstition of the past and begin to question what they are taught and observe. This lead a cultural movement of skepticism.
  • Glorious Revolution

    Glorious Revolution
    Conflict in Great Britain that led to the overthrow of a Catholic king named James II. The people put his daughter, Mary II who was a Protestant, and her husband, William III, on the throne. Parliament forced them to sign the Bill of Rights to limit the power of the monarchy while giving more power to Parliament.
  • Period: to

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Famous Genevan philosopher who believed that in the state of nature all wants and needs would be supplied. He was able to believe this because he believed that men are naturally good. His work was a major influencer on the ideals of both the American and French Revolutions.
  • Period: to

    Adam Smith

    A Scottish economist who is famous for inventing the economy structure of capitalism. He wrote the book “Wealth of Nations” where he described how a free-market is run by the “invisible hand”. Along with capitalism, Smith was in favor of the division of labor.
  • Period: to

    William Wilberforce

    A British politician who fought for the rights of slaves in the British Empire. His efforts eventually led to the freedom of slaves when the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by Parliament in 1833. He believed so strongly of the rights of all individuals because he was a devout Christian who believed everyone was made in the image of God.
  • Period: to

    Industrial Revolution

    The industrial revolution began in Great Britain and this movement saw an increase in the use of machines to make products. This transformed society by shifting work from agriculture in rural Britain to the cities to work in factories. The industrial revolution also helped to increase a worker’s wage and standard of living.
  • Declaration of Independence

    Declaration of Independence
    The thirteen colonies of America declared their independence from Great Britain, igniting the American Revolution.
  • Period: to

    French Revolution

    France was in a destitute situation due to bad mismanagement of finances, high taxation of the poor, and thousands dying due to starvation. The ideals of the Enlightenment made its way into France and the people demanded change. The French people experienced the Reign of Terror as thousands were beheaded at the guillotine if they expressed any opposition towards the revolution and leader Maximilien Robespierre.
  • Period: to

    Charles Darwin

    The father of natural selection. Darwin was exposed to many different species of animals on his voyage on the HMS Beagle. He brought many different specimens back to Britain where he studied them. He came to conclude that evolution happened because of natural selection. Darwin wrote the book "The Descent of Man" where he argued that men evolved from lower species of animals such as the ape. His conclusions and beliefs led to much controversy in the following years.
  • Period: to

    Søren Kierkegaard

    Famous Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard claimed to be an existentialist Christian. Kierkegaard believed that it was up to the individual to either believe or not to believe in God. This is the ethical responsibility of an individual. In his life, he chose to find meaning in Christianity but he does not believe it to be absolute truth as he believes “the thing is to find a truth, which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”
  • Period: to

    Karl Marx

    Founder of communism. Marx believed that human history was a history of the economy and class struggle. He believed in a system where there are no more individuals and private property, where instead, everything was owned by the government and the duty of the people was to work.
  • Period: to

    Friedrich Nietzsche

    An influential German philosopher, Nietzsche was known for his nihilistic views. He believed that morality was not an objective truth and that a new, superhuman race will be formed once the slaves rise up and overthrows their oppressors. This idea of a superior human race influenced Nazism decades later.
  • Period: to

    Sigmund Freud

    A famous Austrian neurologist who invented a treatment called psychoanalysis. He studied the unconscious mind and believed that there are three elements to the subconscious: the id, ego, and the superego. He studied the unconscious mind by examining dreams. He believed that dreams represent an unfulfilled desire or wish.
  • Period: to

    Albert Einstein

    The most famous scientist of the twentieth century, Einstein was a brilliant physicist who helped developed the atomic bomb with his theory of relativity. He is also famous for his work on the photelectric effect where he won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921.
  • Period: to

    Pablo Picasso

    Spanish artist who is famous for creating the artistic movement called cubism along with artist Georges Braque. Cubism is known for harsh geometric lines that portrayed deconstructed objects. This was a revolutionary way to paint as it was in stark contrast of realism.
  • Period: to

    Alan Turing

    Mathematician who created a machine that could crack German codes in World War II. This machine laid the ground work for modern computing.
  • Alvin Plantinga

    Alvin Plantinga
    Famous modern-day Christian philosopher, Plantinga is famous for his work on the problem of evil and arguing for the rational belief in God. His astounding work brought philosophy of religion back on the playing field of modern philosophy.