John Dalton : biography

06 September 1766 - 27 July 1844

Dalton Township in southern Ontario was named for Dalton. It has, since 2001, been absorbed into the City of Kawartha Lakes. However the township name was used in a massive new park: Dalton Digby Wildlands Provincial Park, itself renamed since 2002.

A lunar crater has been named after Dalton. "Daltonism" became a common term for colour blindness and "Daltonien" is the actual French word for "colour blind".

The inorganic section of the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry is named after Dalton (Dalton Division), and the Society's academic journal for inorganic chemistry also bears his name (Dalton Transactions).

The name Dalton can often be heard in the halls of many Quaker schools, for example, one of the school houses in Coram House, the primary sector of Ackworth School, is called Dalton.

Much of his collected work was damaged during the bombing of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society on 24 December 1940. This event prompted Isaac Asimov to say, "John Dalton's records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war". The damaged papers are now in the John Rylands Library having been deposited in the university library by the Society.

Atomic theory

In 1800, Dalton became a secretary of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and in the following year he orally presented an important series of papers, entitled "Experimental Essays" on the constitution of mixed gases; on the pressure of steam and other vapours at different temperatures, both in a vacuum and in air; on evaporation; and on the thermal expansion of gases. These four essays were published in the Memoirs of the Lit & Phil in 1802.

The second of these essays opens with the striking remark,

After describing experiments to ascertain the pressure of steam at various points between 0 and 100 °C (32 and 212 °F), Dalton concluded from observations on the vapour pressure of six different liquids, that the variation of vapour pressure for all liquids is equivalent, for the same variation of temperature, reckoning from vapour of any given pressure.

In the fourth essay he remarks,J. Dalton (1802) Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, vol. 5, pt. 2, pages 595-602; see page 600.

Gas laws

[[Jacques Alexandre César Charles, 1820]] He thus enunciated Gay-Lussac's law or J.A.C. Charles's law, published in 1802 by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac. In the two or three years following the reading of these essays, Dalton published several papers on similar topics, that on the absorption of gases by water and other liquids (1803), containing his law of partial pressures now known as Dalton's law.

The most important of all Dalton's investigations are those concerned with the atomic theory in chemistry, with which his name is inseparably associated. It has been proposed that this theory was suggested to him either by researches on ethylene (olefiant gas) and methane (carburetted hydrogen) or by analysis of nitrous oxide (protoxide of azote) and nitrogen dioxide (deutoxide of azote), both views resting on the authority of Thomas Thomson. However, a study of Dalton's own laboratory notebooks, discovered in the rooms of the Lit & Phil, concluded that so far from Dalton being led by his search for an explanation of the law of multiple proportions to the idea that chemical combination consists in the interaction of atoms of definite and characteristic weight, the idea of atoms arose in his mind as a purely physical concept, forced upon him by study of the physical properties of the atmosphere and other gases. The first published indications of this idea are to be found at the end of his paper on the absorption of gases already mentioned, which was read on 21 October 1803, though not published until 1805. Here he says:

Atomic weights

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine