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The Life Of John Dalton. Essay

1263 words - 5 pages

Dalton, John (b. Sept. 6, 1766, Eaglesfield, Cumberland. Eng.- d. July 27, 1844, Manchester), British chemist and physicist who developed the atomic theory of matter and hence is 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, a college established by the Presbyterians to give a first-class education to both layman and candidates for the ministry, 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 deathIn the early days of his teaching, Dalton's way of life was influenced by a wealthy Quaker, a capable meteorologist and instrument maker, who interested him in the problems of mathematics and meteorology. His first scientific work, which he began in 1787 and continued until the end of his life, was to keep a diary - which was ultimately to contain 200,000 entries - of meteorological observations recording the changeable climate of the lake district in which he lived. In 1793 Dalton published Meteorological Observations and Essays. He then became interested in preparing collections of botanical and insect species. Stimulated by a spectacular aurora display in 1788, he began observations about aurora phenomena - luminous, sometimes colored displays in the sky caused by electrical disturbances in the atmosphere. His writings on the aurora borealis reveal independent thinking unhampered by the conclusions of others. As Dalton himself notes, "Having been in my progress so often misled by taking for granted the results of others, I have determined to write as little as possible but what I can attest by my own experience." In his work on the aurora he concluded that some relationship must exist between the aurora beams and the Earth's magnetism: "Now, from the conclusions in the preceding sections, we are under the necessity of considering the beams of the aurora borealis of a ferruginous (iron-like) nature, because nothing else is known to be magnetic, and consequently, that there exists in the higher regions of the atmosphere an elastic fluid partaking of the properties of iron, or rather of magnetic steel, and that this fluid, doubtless from its magnetic property, assumes the form of cylindric beams."Some of his studies in meteorology led him to conclusions about the origin of trade winds involving the Earth's rotation and variation in temperature - unaware, perhaps, that this theory had already been proposed in 1735 by George...

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