JOHN DALTON – Father of modern atomic theory
Born: 6 September 1766, in Eaglesfield, England
Died: 27 July 1844 (when he was 77), in Manchester, England
Known for: atomic theory, Law of multiple proportions, Dalton´s law of partial pressures
Dalton was born in Eaglesfield, England. The son of a weaver, he joined his older brother Jonathan at age 15 in running a Quaker school in nearby Kendal. Around 1790 Dalton seems to have considered taking up law or medicine, but his projects were not met with support from his relatives — Dissenterss were barred from attending or teaching at English universities — and he remained at Kendal until, in the spring of 1793, he moved to Manchester. Mainly through John Gough, a blind philosopher from whose informal instruction he owed much of his scientific knowledge, Dalton was appointed teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy at the "New College" in Manchester, a Dissenting academy. He remained in that position until 1800, when the college's financial situation led him to resign his post and begin a new career in Manchester as a private tutor for mathematics and natural philosophy.
Dalton's early life was highly influenced by a prominent Eaglesfield Quaker named Elihu Robinson, a competent meteorologist and instrument maker, who got him interested in problems of mathematics and meteorology. During his years in Kendal, Dalton contributed solutions of problems and questions on various subjects to the Gentlemen's and Ladies' Diaries, and in 1787 he began to keep a meteorological diary in which, during the succeeding 57 years, he entered more than 200,000 observations. Dalton's first publication was Meteorological Observations and Essays (1793), which contained the seeds of several of his later discoveries. However, in spite of the originality of his treatment, little attention was paid to them by other scholars. A second work by Dalton, Elements of English Grammar, was published in 1801.
In 1794, shortly after his arrival in Manchester, Dalton was elected a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and a few weeks later he communicated his first paper on "Extraordinary facts relating to the vision of colours", in which he postulated that shortage in colour perception was caused by discolouration of the liquid medium of the eyeball. In fact, a shortage of colour perception in some people had not even been formally described or officially noticed until Dalton wrote about his own. Although Dalton's theory lost credence in his own lifetime, the thorough and methodical nature of his research into his own isual problem was so broadly recognized that Daltonism became a common term for colour blindness. Examination of his preserved eyeball in 1995 demonstrated that Dalton actually had a less common kind of colour blindness, deuteroanopia, in which medium wavelength sensitive cones are missing (rather than functioning with a mutated form of their pigment, as in the most common type of colour blindness, deuteroanomaly). Besides the blue and purple of the spectrum he was able to recognize only one colour, yellow, or, as he says in his paper, hat part of the image which others call red appears to me little more than a shade or defect of light. After that the orange, yellow and green seem one colour which descends pretty uniformly from an intense to a rare yellow, making what I should call different shades of yellow.
This paper was followed by many others on diverse topics on rain and dew and the origin of springs, on heat, the colour of the sky, steam, the auxiliary verbs and participles of the English language and the reflection and refraction of light.
Because of Dalton's work, the condition is sometimes called Daltonism, although this term is now used for a type of color blindness called deuteranopia.
LAW OF MULTIPLE PROPORTIONS
In chemistry, the law of multiple proportions is one of the basic laws and a main tool of chemical measurement (stoichiometry).
It states that when elements combine they do so in a ratio of small whole numbers. For example, carbon and oxygen react to form CO or CO2, but not CO1.3 for instance. Furthermore, it states that if two elements form more than one compound between them then the ratios of the masses of the second element combined with a fixed mass of the first element will also be in ratios of small whole numbers.
J. Dalton first expressed this observation in 1803 and it is sometimes called Dalton's Law, though that more usually refers to his law of partial pressures. A few years previously, the French chemist Joseph Proust had proposed the law of definite proportions, which expressed that the elements combined to form compounds in certain well-defined proportions, rather than mixing in just any proportion. Careful study of the actual numerical values of these proportions led Dalton to propose his law of multiple proportions. This was an important step toward the atomic theory that he would propose later that year, and it laid the basis for the chemical formulas for compounds.
In 1800 he 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. The second of these essays opens with the striking remark, there can scarcely be a doubt entertained respecting the reducibility of all elastic fluids of whatever kind, into liquids; and we ought not to despair of affecting it in low temperatures and by strong pressures exerted upon the unmixed gases further.
After describing experiments to ascertain the pressure of steam at various points between 0° and 100°C (32° and 212°F), he 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, I see no sufficient reason why we may not conclude that all elastic fluids under the same pressure expand equally by heat and that for any given expansion of mercury, the corresponding expansion of air is proportionally something less, the higher the temperature. It seems, therefore, that general laws respecting the absolute quantity and the nature of heat are more likely to be derived from elastic fluids than from other substances.
Five main points of Dalton's Atomic Theory
•Elements are made of small particles called atoms.
•All atoms of a given element are identical.
•The atoms of a given element are different from those of any other element; the atoms of different elements can be distinguished from one another by their respective relative weights.
•Atoms of one element can combine with atoms of other elements to form chemical compounds; a given compound always has the same relative numbers of types of atoms.
•Atoms cannot be created, divided into smaller particles, nor destroyed in the chemical process; a chemical reaction simply changes the way atoms are grouped together.
ATOMIC MASS UNIT
Unified atomic mass unit, or Dalton, or, sometimes, universal mass unit, is an unit of mass used to express atomic and molecular masses. It is the approximate mass of a hydrogen atom, a proton, or a neutron.
Dalton was the first to suggest the mass of one atom of hydrogen as the atomic mass unit. Francis Aston, inventor of the mass spectrometer, later used 1⁄16 of the mass of one atom of oxygen - 16 as his unit.
Before 1961, the physical atomic mass unit (amu) was defined as 1⁄16 of the mass of one atom of oxygen-16, while the chemical atomic mass unit (amu) was defined as 1⁄16 of the average mass of an oxygen atom (taking the natural abundance of the different oxygen isotopes into account). Both units are slightly smaller than the unified atomic mass unit, which was adopted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics in 1960 and by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry in 1961. Hence, before 1961 physicists as well as chemists used the symbol amu for their respective (and slightly different) atomic mass units. One still sometimes finds this usage in the scientific literature today. However, the accepted standard is now the unified atomic mass unit (symbol u), with: 1 u = 1.000 317 9 amu (physical scale) = 1.000 043 amu (chemical scale). Since 1961, by definition the unified atomic mass unit is equal to one-twelfth of the mass of a carbon-12 atom.
Dalton's most significant work was done between 1795 and 1805, but fame came later—when the importance of his atomic theory was realized. He became a member of the Royal Society in 1822, received its first Royal Medal in 1826, and was honored with a state pension in 1833, among other honors.
Dalton suffered a minor stroke in 1837, and a second one in 1838 left him with a speech impediment, though he remained able to do experiments. In May 1844 he had yet another stroke; on 26 July he recorded with trembling hand his last meteorological observation. On 27 July, in Manchester, Dalton fell from his bed and was found lifeless by his attendant. He was buried in Manchester in Ardwick cemetery.
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John Dalton and Atomic theory
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