Friday, February 26, 2021

John Dalton: English scientist

John Dalton is best known for his atomic theory and research in color blindness. John Dalton was born on 6 September 1766 at the village of Eaglesfield near Cockermouth in Cumberland, a stronghold of the Society of Friends.

Both his parents came of Quaker stock from which Dalton inherited his love of learning. Quaker schoolmaster in the village school taught him mathematics with a practical bent.

At the early age of twelve, Dalton started to teach mathematics, under the influence of his teacher Elihu Robinson—a Quaker interested in natural philosophy and meteorology. His village school was in an old barn and later in the Quakers’ Meeting House.

Dalton never had a formal education in chemistry, but it was probably at this point that he had his first contact with popular books on Newtonianism from which he began to build his scientific ideas. In 1780, Dalton moved to Kendal, where he became a teacher in a Quaker school.

At Kendal Dalton was lucky in meeting a remarkably able blind man, John Gough, who taught him languages and mathematics and encouraged him to start a meteorological journal in 1787, which Dalton continued until the day before his death.

He worked on color-blindness and meteorology. Dalton realized that he and his brother were both unable to see red. He had discovered this, apparently, when sent by his mother to buy some thread matching her grey Quaker dress; he returned with scarlet, which looked the same to him.

His initiative in making his own barometer, thermometer, rain gauge and hygrometer, shows Dalton’s innate experimental ingenuity. With these instruments Dalton made daily observations for five years, 1788 to 1792, of the barometric pressure and the wind, of the temperature of the air, of its hygrometric state and rainfall, and also of the occurrence of snow and ice, of thunder, and in great detail of the aurora borealis.

He is chiefly remembered for his atomic theory. Dalton proposed the Atomic Theory in 1803. The theory held that all matter was composed of small particles, elements possess unique characteristics and weight, and that there are three types of atoms simple, compound, and complex. He was the first to suggest the mass of one atom of hydrogen as the atomic mass unit. The unit became the dalton.

He was elected into the Royal Society in 1822 and was awarded the first Royal Medal in 1826. On 27 July, in Manchester, Dalton fell from his bed and was found lifeless by his attendant.
John Dalton: English scientist

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