The Early Life, Successes and Contributions of John Dalton in Atomic Theory

Topics: Atomic Theory

John Dalton once made this famous quote on his work concerning the atom, We might as well attempt to introduce a new planet into the solar system, or to annihilate one already in existence, as to create or destroy a particle of hydrogen.

John Dalton was a British chemist and physicist, who developed the atomic theory upon which modern physical science is founded. Dalton, a Quaker, was born on September 6, 1766, in Eaglesfield, Cumberland County, England. He received education from the village school until age 11.

He received tuition from Elihu Robinson, a wealthy Quaker, meteorologist, and instrument maker, who first encouraged Dalton’s interest in meteorology. At age 12 he was given a job to teach at the same school he attended. He worked on a farm for two years before he moved to Kendal where he taught with his brother. He also went on to teach at a Presbyterian Institute when he was 28 years old. A year later he was elected to the Manchester Literacy and Philosophical Society.

Although he did not have a specific institution where he researched, Dalton began a series of meteorological research at the Lake District in 1787. His observations continued for 57 years, accumulating some 200,000 annotations and measurements on the weather in the Manchester area. His first published book contained the first of his laws concerning the behavior of compound atmospheres. Dalton also wrote a book that has the first explanation of the dew point and hence the founding of exact hygrometry.

In 1803 Dalton made his most important contribution to science, his theory (The atomic theory) states that matter is composed of atoms of differing weights and combine in simple ratios by weight.

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A physical clue to the theory was provided by the solubility of gases in water. He found through experiments that atoms of different gases have different weights. He showed how these atoms link together in definite proportions. An atom is any of the smallest particles of an element that combine with similar particles of other elements to produce compounds. He first announced his theory at a Royal Institution in a lecture in 1803. This theory was the foundation of modern physical science. Dalton used his theory to rationalize the various laws of chemical combination and show that they followed his theory. The postulates of the theory are that matter consists of atoms; that atoms can be neither created or destroyed; that all atoms of the same element are identical; different elements have different types of atoms; that chemical reactions take place by a rearrangement of atoms; and that the compounds consist of compound atoms formed from atoms of the constituent elements.

The Greeks influenced Dalton to build onto the understanding of the atom, which in his day was very little. Dalton’s work with the atom set the stage for further research. Dalton was constantly at a disadvantage because the only base he had to work off was ancient and outdated theories proposed by the Greeks. His theory gave scientists a new knowledge and understanding of the atom, which later triggered the production of atomic bombs. He was a philosopher with the ability to test his theories. Dalton early on in life worked with his brother on Daltonism, which was the phenomenon known as color blindness. Dalton worked on the scientific conclusion that gases expand equally by heat, but he borrowed the idea from Jacques Charles, which was the discoverer of this conclusion. He worked mainly solo, writing many books and pioneering many advances in chemistry. In 1830 Dalton became one of the eight foreign associates of the French Academy of Sciences. This was the only time, besides the work with his brother, that he did not work alone. John Dalton died peacefully in 1844. Through our research my partner and I have learned of a man, a fantastic man, a man that has pioneered many ideas and thoughts, and has literally changed the world today. We salute him!

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The Early Life, Successes and Contributions of John Dalton in Atomic Theory. (2021, Dec 17). Retrieved from

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