John Dalton, the father of modern atomic theory, proposed a set of fundamental principles that forever changed our understanding of the physical world. His theory transformed chemistry and physics into a more evidence-based science; however, there is one part of his theory that does not hold up to modern scientific scrutiny.
Dalton’s Atomic Theory has four main principles:
Principle 1: Elements are made up of tiny particles called atoms
According to Dalton’s theory, all matter is made up of tiny particles called atoms. These atoms are indivisible and indestructible. They cannot be created or destroyed but can combine with other atoms to form compounds.
Principle 2: All atoms of a given element are identical
Dalton believed that all atoms of the same element were identical in mass, size, and chemical properties. This principle formed the basis for the periodic table we use today.
Principle 3: Chemical reactions involve the rearrangement of atoms
Dalton proposed that chemical reactions occur when atoms combine or separate from each other. He believed that during a chemical reaction, atoms rearrange themselves into new combinations.
Principle 4: Compounds are formed by combining two or more different types of atoms
Dalton suggested that compounds were formed by combining two or more different types of atoms in specific ratios. He also believed that these ratios could be expressed as simple whole numbers.
However, there is one part of Dalton’s Atomic Theory that does not hold up to modern scientific scrutiny:
Atoms are indivisible
Dalton believed that atoms were indivisible and could not be broken down into smaller parts. However, we now know that this is not entirely true. Atoms can be broken down into smaller particles through nuclear reactions such as fission and fusion.
In addition to nuclear reactions, subatomic particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons were discovered in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These particles make up atoms and can be separated from one another through various methods.
While Dalton’s Atomic Theory revolutionized our understanding of the physical world, it is not entirely accurate. Atoms are not indivisible, and they can be broken down into smaller particles. However, Dalton’s theory was still a significant step forward in the development of modern atomic theory and paved the way for further scientific discoveries.