, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 253–267 | Cite as

The concept of atom from the Greek philosophers to the Karlsruhe congress

  • Salvatore Califano


This review paper, delivered upon invitation at the international meeting held in Rome at the Accademia dei Lincei to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the birth of Dimitri Mendeleev, presents an historical survey of the development of the concept of atoms from the ancient Greek philosophers to the famous speech given by Stanislao Cannizzaro at the Karlsruhe congress in 1860. The review focuses the attention on some key items that have marked the development of the atomic concept, namely the contrast between the discrete and continuum in physical theories, the transfer of the endless divisibility of geometry to the physical world, the quarrel on the existence of void and the difficulty of accepting the action at a distance.


Mendeleev Periodic law 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di ChimicaUniversità di FirenzeSesto Fiorentino, FlorenceItaly

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