World’s Super Scientists – Dalton, John

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Atomic Theory — One of the Basic Theories of all Sciences – Dalton, John

“Father of Atomic Theory’, self-tutored English chemist was born in Eaglesfield, England in 1766. He was as vigilant as an eagle, justifying his birthplace.

At the tender young age of 12 he was headmaster of Quaker School, styled as per the English way — ‘he was 12 years old’ [it ought to be ’12 years young’]; his pupils were elders. Scientist John Dalton’s hobby was weather study. He learnt Latin and Greek, studied mathematics and meteorology.

Later Scientist John Dalton moved to Kendal where he taught for twelve years. He started a Science Discussion Forum, but with a handicap of unattractive personality and unpleasing voice, he could not make further impact.

Scientist John Dalton came into touch with John Gough, a scholar blind from birth, but who got familiar with plants in a radius of 20 miles by touch, taste and smell; he was a meteorologist, too.

Inspired by him, Scientist John Dalton became a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society and sent his papers for nearly fifty years of his life.

In 1787 he started a diary; he used to make entries about meteorological observations — last entry was on his date of death; it contained 2,00,000 entries, in all. He wrote, “If I have succeeded… I say almost solely — from universal assiduity.”

In 1793 he published a book, Meteorological Observations and Essays.

In 1808-1810 his book, New System of Chemical Philosophy hit the market.

In 1817 he was elevated to the post of President of the Philosophical Society, an honorary office he held until his death.He was a man of few words, unmarried, deeply dedicated to research.
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Scientist John Dalton Contributions :

1. Observations on ‘aurora’ phenomena — luminous coloured displays in the sky caused by electrical disturbances in the atmosphere.

2. Scientist John Dalton used to lecture on formation of clouds, rainfall, atmospheric moisture, dew point, barometer, thermometer, hygrometer, etc.

3. Theory of partial pressures of gases — Dalton’s law. Actually Charles’ law ought to have been credited to Dalton.

4. Theory of colour blindness. He was himself color blind. Colour blindness is called Daltonism.

5. The cream of his work was on chemistry and chemical analysis.

6. The smallest particle in a substance is termed an ‘atom’, meaning in Greek ‘not cuttable’. The indestructible nature of the atom is, however, disproved after atom-smashing, the atomic bomb.

Scientist Dalton paved the way for interpretation of ‘atomic weight’ of a substance. He made a table of atomic weights.

However, Scientist John Dalton erred in the case of water. He said one “simple” of hydrogen combines with one “simple” of oxygen to give one compound water (HO); he didn’t know that two hydrogen atoms combine with one oxygen atom to form water (H20).

7. Scientist John Dalton devised a system of chemical symbols for elements.

8. Scientist John Dalton discovered butylene, ether.

This modest quiet man of Quaker faith received Gold Medal from the Royal Society of England in 1826. The French elected him to their Academy of Sciences.

As legend goes, forty thousand people filed past his bier when he died in 1944; thus he was respected on his deathbed.


Quaker a member of the society of Friends, a Christian religious group strongly opposed to violence and war.