JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
John Dalton (1766-1844). Engraving of the English chemist John Dalton - the first scientist to propose the atomic theory of matter. Dalton came from a Quaker family in Cumberland, the son of a weaver. A gifted child, by age 12 he had already left school and become a teacher. His first love was meteorology - from 1787 to his death he kept daily weather records using instruments he built himself. In 1801 he discovered the law of partial pressures of gases, and in 1803 published his theory that all matter consists of indivisible "atoms". Dalton was a poor speaker and a clumsy experimenter, but a brilliant theoretician. He never married, claiming he was too busy.
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