John Dalton was an English chemist, meteorologist and physicist, who gained fame for his work on “modern atomic theory of the structure of matter” and “color blindness.”
Childhood and early years
John Dalton was born in the small village of Eaglesfield in Cumberland, England, in the family of the poor weaver Joseph Dalton and Deborah Greenap, derived from the thriving English Quaker family, members of the Christian movement, whose ideology was at odds with the letter of the New Testament.
At the age of 15, John helps older brother Jonathan manage affairs at his private Quaker school in Kenda in the county of Cumbria.
Since 1787, John maintains a diary of meteorological observations, and for his entire life, for more than 57 years, he will record about 20,000 weather observations in it.
Somewhere around 1790, Dalton is planning to enter the law or medical faculty of the institute, but since he belongs to the “sectarians” – to members of groups opposed to the Anglican church – he is forbidden to study in English schools.
In 1793, Dalton moved to Manchester, where he received the post of teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy at the New College – the sectarian academy, which provides jobs for religious nonconformists with higher education.
All youthful years as an example and role model for Dalton was Elihu Robinson – an outstanding Quaker, an infallible meteorologist, who instilled in the boy interest in mathematics and meteorology.
In 1793, published the first book of Dalton’s essays on meteorological topics, based on his personal observations. This work lays the foundation for all his further works.
In 1794 the scientist wrote a scientific article titled “Unusual Facts Concerning the Vision of Flowers” – one of the earliest of his works on the color perception of the human eye.
In 1800, Dalton makes a report, presenting his article “Experimental Notes” to the public, which deals with experiments with gases and the study of nature and the chemical component of air relative to atmospheric pressure.
In 1801 the second book, “The Initial Course of English Grammar”, was published. In the same year, the scientist will open the “law of Dalton” – an empirical law obtained as a result of working with gases.
By 1803, his
experiments with the “pressure of a mixture of ideal gases” led to the derivation of the “partial pressure law”, named after the scientist.
In the early 1800’s, Dalton formulated the theory of “thermal expansion” and “reaction of heating and cooling in gases,” taking into account the expansion and compression of air.
In 1803 he wrote an article for the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, in which he presents a table of relative atomic weights – one of the first definitions of atomic weights at that time.
In 1808, in the work “The New System of the Philosophy of Chemistry,” he makes further explanations of the atomic theory and atomic weights, expressing his own vision of how chemical elements can be determined, based on their atomic mass.
In 1810, Dalton publishes an appendix to his book The New System of the Philosophy of Chemistry, in which he carefully studies the “atomic theory of the structure of matter” and the concept of “atomic weight.”
In 1801, the scientist deduces the “Dalton law”, also known as Dalton’s law of partial pressure, which is now widely used by scuba divers to measure the pressure level at various depths of the ocean and its effect on the level of consumption of the respiratory gas and nitrogen concentration.
He introduces the term “color blindness” to determine color blindness, which received its name on behalf of the scientist. On this subject, Dalton argues in the article “Unusual facts regarding the vision of flowers, with observations.”
In the work “The New System of the Philosophy of Chemistry” published in 1808, he develops the “atomic theory of the structure of matter” and becomes the first scientist to compose a table of relative atomic weights. This theory, which laid the foundation for further research in this field, is also relevant in our time.
Awards and achievements
In 1794 Dalton was elected a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. In 1800, the scientist became the scientific secretary of the society, and from 1817 he headed it.
Personal life and heritage
Dalton all his life remained a bachelor, led a modest life and communicated only with a few friends belonging to the group of Quakers.
In 1837, the scientist suffers a heart attack, after which, in a few years, another will follow, and as a result he has problems with speech.
After the third blow that overtook Dalton at the age of 77, he falls off the bed, and, some time later, the servant who brought the scientist tea finds him dead.
They buried Dalton in the Manchester City Hall.
In memory of his scientific achievements, many chemists and biochemists use the extrasystem unit of measurement “dalton”, which is the atomic unit of mass.
When Dalton was still alive, a large statue was erected in the Manchester Town Hall. Thus, he became, perhaps, the only scientist whose monument was erected during his lifetime.