Thales is the hero of any modern-day philosophy student. These poor souls are constantly derided by their counterparts in the Engineering and Business departments, who are wont to inform aspiring philosophers that thinking about metaphysics and epistemology and other polysyllabics doesn't pay the bills.

Our man Thales was one of the first, if not the first, in Western culture to be so derided. Everyone in Miletus, especially the many money-minded merchants, loved to laugh at Thales, who was constantly carrying on about constellations, and the universe, and all sorts of other things that don't bring home the bacon. Or so everyone said.

According to Aristotle1, Thales eventually got pretty sick of being a laughingstock. He had figured out something important about the positions of the stars and the olive crops, and after looking at the sky for a while he was pretty darn sure that there was going to be a bumper crop of olives that year. So he got it into his head that he'd corner the market on olive presses.

Sure enough, the olives that year were quite bountiful. And when those jokers came with their olives to use the presses, Thales jacked up the price. He made a killing! Who says philosophy doesn't pay?

1. Aristotle, Politics XI, 1259b