1.6 Dalton’s Atomic Theory

Although the origin of the idea that matter is composed of small indivisible particles called ‘atomio’ (meaning, indivisible), dates back to the time of Democritus, a Greek Philosopher (460–370 BC), it again started emerging as a result of several experimental studies which led to the laws mentioned above.

In 1808, Dalton published ‘A New System of Chemical Philosophy’, in which he proposed the following :

  • Matter consists of indivisible atoms.
  • All atoms of a given element have identical properties, including identical mass. Atoms of different elements differ in mass.
  • Compounds are formed when atoms of different elements combine in a fixed ratio.
  • Chemical reactions involve reorganization of atoms. These are neither created nor destroyed in a chemical reaction.

Dalton’s theory could explain the laws of chemical combination. However, it could not explain the laws of gaseous volumes. It could not provide the reason for combining of atoms, which was answered later by other scientists.

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