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John Dalton biography

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Born: September 6, 1766 Died: July 27, 1844 Age: 78 Description: British chemist and physicist who developed the atomic theory of matter and hence in known as one of the fathers of modern physical science. Dalton was the son of a Quaker weaver. When only 12 he took charge of a Quaker school in Cumberland and two years later taught with his brother at a school in Kendal, where he was to remain for 12 years. He then became a teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy at New College in Manchester. The doors of Cambridge and Oxford being open at that time only to members of the Church of England. He resigned this position in 1800 to become secretary of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society and served as a public and private teacher of mathematics and chemistry. In 1817 he became president of the Philosophical Society, an honorary office that he held until his death. In the early days of his teaching, Dalton's way of life was influenced by a wealthy Quaker, who interested him in the problems of mathematics and meteorology. ...read more.


He was the first to confirm the theory that rain is caused not by any alteration in atmospheric pressure but by a diminution of temperature. In his studies with water he determined the point of the maximum density of water to be 42.5� F (later shown to be 39.16� F. Along with his other researches he also became interested in colour blindness, a condition that he and his brother shared. The results of this work were published in an essay, "Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours" (1794), in which he postulated that deficiency in colour perception was caused by discoloration of the liquid medium of the eyeball. Although Dalton's theory lost credence in his own lifetime, the meticulous, systematic nature of his research was so broadly recognized that Daltonism became a common term for colour blindness. An indefatigable investigator or researcher, Dalton had an unusual talent for formulating a theory from a variety of data. The mental capacity of the man is illustrated by his major work that was to begin at the turn of the century - his work in chemistry. ...read more.


Almost a recluse, with few friends, and unmarried, he was deeply dedicated to a search for the answer to scientific problems. His homemade equipment was crude, and his data were not usually exact, but they were good enough to give his alert and creative mind clues to the probable answer. Dalton remained a man of simple wants and uniform habits, keeping his dress and manners consistent with his Quaker faith. Dalton's record keeping, although remarkable for quantity, often lacked exactness in dating, probably because he revised his manuscripts as secretary of the Philosophical Society between the time of the oral presentation and the publication. The exact date of some of his work, especially the atomic theory, is still in doubt because of this opportunity for revision. His documents were destroyed during the bombings of England in World War II. A fellow of the Royal Society, from whom he received the Gold Medal in 1826, and a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences, John Dalton was also cofounder of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. At his death more than 40,000 people came to Manchester to pay their final respects. ...read more.

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