John Dalton

John Dalton was born on September 6 1766 at Eagelsfield, Cumbria in England. Although he was born in England, he spent most of his life in Manchester. He was born into a Quaker family and while his family had food, they were still poor. His father Joseph was a weaver and John recieved most of his early education from his father. At the age of 12, John opened a school in Eagelsfield where he was the master. He was often threatened by the older boys who wanted to fight him because he was smarter, but he managed to keep in control for 2 years.

Due to a poor salary, John was forced to leave his school and work in the fields with his brother. In 1781 John and his brother moved to Kendall. There John, his cousin George, and his brother ran a school where they offered English,Latin,Greek,French and twenty one mathematics and science course. Their school had sixty pupils. After twelve years at Kendall John started doing lectures and answering questions for mens magazines. John found a mentor in John Gough,who was the blind son of a wealthy tradesman. John Gough taught Dalton languages,mathematics,and optics. In 1973 John moved to Manchester as a tutor at New College.

He immediately joined the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society and in the same year he published his first book: Meteorological Observations and Essays. In his book Dalton stated that gas exits and acts independantly and purely physically not chemically. After six years of tutoring, John resigned to conduct private research while still doing tutoring at 2 shillings a lesson. In 1802 John stated his law of partial pressures. When two elastic fluids are mixed together ( A and B) they dont repel each other. A particles do not repel B particles but a B particle will repel another B particle.

One of his experiments involved the addition of water vapor to dry air. The increase in pressure was the same as the pressure of the added water. By doing this experiment, John established a relationship between vapor pressure and temperature. John’s interest in gases arose from his studies of meteorology. He had weather equipment that was with him at all times and he was constantly studying weather and atmosphere. He also kept a journal throughout his life in which he wrote over 200,000 observations. In 1803, John made his biggest contribution to science: The Atomic Theory.

On August 3, 1803 he stated the law of porpotions: the weights of elements always combine with each other in small whole number ratios. Later that year John published his first list of atomic weights and symbols, giving chemistry it’s own language. Over the next couple years John began to lecture and continually experiment. In his lectures reported the experiments, and published them in a book in 1808. His book , A New System of Chemical Philosophy Part 1, was his most famous work. John had relied on his observations and his mathematical reasoning to create this astounding book.

But not everyone accepted his atomic theory so he often had to defend it. In 1810 he published the second part of his book which gave more evidence for his theory. On July 28, 1844 John died of a stroke at the age of 78. John was buried with kingly honors in Manchester. Because of his popularity, John’s body was viewed by over 400,000 people. John is honored with a statue and a large monument. Without question John Dalton’s biggest contribution to science was the atomic theory as well as his books on chemical philosophy and his list of atomic weights and symbols. Without John Dalton science would not be where it is at today.


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