Dalton

  • J. R. Partington
Chapter

Abstract

John Dalton (Eaglesfield, 6 September 1766–Manchester, 27 July 1844) was born at Eaglesfield, a village near Cockermouth in Cumberland in a situation apart from the main centres of commerce and learning. He was the son of a wool weaver, his ancestors being artisans and not peasants. The family was in modest but not poor circumstances, owning a small estate (‘statesmen’ in local description). His father seems to have been of somewhat timid disposition, but his mother, Deborah Greenup of Caldbeck, of a yeoman family, was energetic and lively, and Dalton’s characteristics were inherited from her. Both parents were Quakers, to which sect Dalton belonged all his life. In consequence, there is no record of his birth in the parish registers, the date 6 September 1766 being recovered long afterwards from the memories of neighbours of his parents. His father taught him arithmetic and navigation and was apparently a man of some education. At the age of 10 he was given evening lessons in mathematics by Elihu Robinson, a wealthy Quaker of scientific attainments, who probably also first interested Dalton in meteorology.

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Footnotes

  1. 1.
    Boulger, DNB, 1890, xxii, 277. On Dalton, see: Anon., British Quarterly Review, 1845, i, 157–98 (says b. 5 September); Anon., Quarterly Review, 1855, xcvi, 43–75 (the author, an Edinburgh man, Geo. Wilson, knew Dalton); Anon., Nature, 1946, clviii, 193 (memorial of Dalton in Padshaw Hall graveyard, nr. Eaglesfield); J. Bostock, Nicholson’s J., 1811, xxviii, 280–92 (criticism of Dalton’s atomic theory); E. M. Brockbank, John Dalton: some unpublished letters of personal and scientific interest, Manchester, 1944 (62 pp.) (says b. 5 September); S. Brown, Lectures on the Atomic Theory and Essays Scientific and Literary, 2 vols., Edinburgh and London, 1858; F. W. Clarke, Manchester Mem., 1903, xlvii, no. 11 (général); C. Clay, Chem. News, 1884,1, 59-60 (reminiscence of Dalton, 1816-17); Agnes M. Clerke, DNB, 1888, iii, 428; E. Cohen, Chem. Weekbl., 1905, ii, 97 (caricature of Dalton by Moll); H. F. Coward, J. Chem. Educ., 1927, iv, 22 (portr.); J. Dalton, Autobiography (22 October 1822) in W. C. Henry, 1854, 2 (facsim.; see also Duveen and Klickstein, J. Chem. Educ., 1955, xxxii, 333-4); C. Daubeny, An Introduction to the Atomic Theory, Oxford, 1831 (147 pp.); 2 enlarged ed., Oxford, 1850 (502 pp.); H. Davy, Works, 1840, iv, 78; v, 326; vii, 93; H. Debus, Z. phys. Chem., 1896, xx, 359; 1897, xxiv, 325; 1899, xxix, 266; 1899, xxx, 556; id., Phil. Mag., 1896, xlii, 350; M. Delacre, Monit. Scientif, 1921, xi, 328 (Dalton’s symbols); id., Histoire de la Chimie, Paris, 1920, 215-43; E. Divers, B.A. Rep., 1902, 557 (atomic theory without hypotheses); J. N. Friend, Nature, 1944, cliv, 103 (pictures of Dalton’s birthplace); H. Garnett, Nature, 1931, cxxvii, 201 (photographs of Dalton); W. W. H. Gee, with H. F. Coward and A. Harden, Manchester Mem., 1914-15, lix, No. 12 (66 pp. and plates; 150 diagrams for Dalton’s lectures found in a cupboard, probably prepared in 1810–15); F- Greenaway, Manchester Mem. and Proc, 1958-9, c, 1-98 (The Biographical Approach to John Dalton; see review by Partington, Nature, 1959, clxxxiii, 1765); R. Harrington, The Death-Warrant of the French Theory of Chemistry, signed by Truth, Reason, Common Sense, Honour and Science … Likewise, Remarks upon Mr. Dalton’s late Theory … , London: Printed for the Author, 1804; W. C. Henry, Memoirs of the Life and Scientific Researches of John Dalton, 1854. (In a letter of January 1838, Henry says Dalton’s papers came into his hands before that date, and he was then working on them, not first in 1844 as he says in the preface to his book: see Loewenfeld, 10); A. Hopwood, J. Chem. Educ., 1926, iii, 485; G. L. Hume, Chemical Attraction. An Essay in Five Chapters, Cambridge, 1835 (laws of combination, electrochemical theory, Dalton’s atomic theory (112 f.), theory of volumes of Gay-Lussac, agents opposing chemical attraction; dedic. to E. Turner); F. Jones, Manchester Mem., 1904, xlviii, no. 22 (Dalton’s apparatus; portr. Dalton opp. t.p.); G. W. A. Kahlbaum, Z. phys. Chem., 1899, xxix, 700 (crit. Debus); W. Kirkby, Chemist and Druggist, 1931, cxv, 16 (Dalton’s lectures on pharmaceutical chemistry in Manchester in 1793, and on the atomic theory in 1824); H. Kopp, (3), 1873, 285-300; K. Loewenfeld, Manchester Mem., 1913, lvii, no. 19 (illustr., incl. Dalton’s birthplace); H. Lonsdale, John Dalton, in Worthies of Cumberland, 1874, v (portr. and unpubl. letters); H. McLachlan, Manchester Mem., 1943-5, lxxxvi, no. 7, 165 (Dalton in Manchester, 1793-1844); W. J. Macneven, Exposition of the Atomic Theory of Chymistry; and the Doctrine of Definite Proportions, in Ann. 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News, 1910, cii, 1; Manchester Mem., 1910-11, lv, No. 3; (3) Newton’s Theory, and its Influence in the Eighteenth Century, Manchester Mem., 1910, lv, No. 4; (4) Dalton’s Physical Atomic Theory, ib., 1910-11, lv, No. 5; (5) Dalton’s Chemical Theory, ib., 1910-11, lv, No. 6 (summarising, with bibliography, a long controversy between Debus and Divers, Kahlbaum, and Roscoe and Harden (see these)); (6) The Reception of the Theory advocated by Dalton, ib., 1911, lv, No. 19; (7) The rival claims of William Higgins and John Dalton, ib., 1911, lv, No. 22; (8) The Development of the Atomic Theory, Bombay, Oxford University Press, n.d. [1920] attacking A. Scott, see below (on Andrew Norman Meldrum (Alloa, 19 March 1876-Edinburgh, 12 March 1934) see Forster, J. Chem. Soc, 1934, 1476; and bibl. of papers in Isis, 1929, xii, 379); J. V. Millington, John Dalton, in English Men of Science Series, London, 1906; M. M. P. Muir, Heroes of Science. 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  2. 10.
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  3. 8.
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  7. 2.
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Copyright information

© J. R. Partington 1962

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Partington
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of LondonUK
  2. 2.Queen Mary CollegeLondonUK

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