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Early Theories of Matter

In ancient times various theories were suggested about the nature of matter. Empedocles held that all matter is made up of four "elements"—earth, air, fire, and water. Leucippus and his pupil Democritus proposed an atomic basis of matter, believing that all matter is built up from tiny particles differing in size and shape. Anaxagoras, however, rejected any theory in which matter is viewed as composed of smaller constituents, whether atoms or elements, and held instead that matter is continuous throughout, being entirely of a single substance.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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