John Dalton

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John Dalton
John Dalton
Dalton by Charles Turner
after James Lonsdale
(1834, mezzotint)
Birthday/Birthplace (1766-09-06)6 September 1766
Eaglesfield, Cumberland, England
Deceased 27 July 1844(1844-07-27)
Manchester, England
Cause of death Stroke
Lives Where England
Citizenship British
Credit for Atomic theory, Law of Multiple Proportions, Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures, Daltonism
Awards Won Royal Medal (1826)
Scientific career
Notable students James Prescott Joule
Influences John Gough
Author abbrev. (botany) Jn.Dalton

John Dalton (ʤɒn dɔːltən) (Eaglesfield, Cumberland (United Kingdom), September 6, 1766-Manchester, July 27, 1844) was a British naturalist, chemist, mathematician and meteorologist. Its atomic model and its table of relative weights of the elements, which contributed to lay the foundations of modern chemistry, are especially relevant.

He is also known to have described color blindness, a visual defect related to the perception of colors he suffered and which bears his name.

John Dalton’s Biography

First years

John Dalton was born on September 6, 1766 in a Quaker family of the population of Eaglesfield, in Cumberland, England. Son of a weaver, we know that he had five brothers, of whom two survived: Jonathan, older than Dalton, and Mary, whose date of birth is unknown. Dalton was sent to a school where he learned mathematics and stressed enough so that, at the age of 12, he was able to contribute to the family economy by giving classes to other children, first at home and then at the Quaker temple. The income was modest so he devoted himself to agricultural work until in 1781 he became associated with his brother Jonathan, who helped one of his cousins ​​to lead a Quaker school in nearby Kendal.

Around 1790 Dalton considered the possibility of studying law or medicine, but found no support from his family for his projects – the religious dissenters of the time were prevented from attending or teaching in English universities – so he remained in Kendal until in the spring of 1793 he moved to Manchester. Thanks to the influence of John Gough, a blind and scholarly philosopher to whose informal instruction Dalton owed much of his scientific knowledge, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at the “New School” of Manchester, an academy of religious dissenters. He retained the position until 1800, when the academy faced the worst financial situation forcing him to resign his position and start a new career in Manchester as a private tutor.

In his youth, Dalton was greatly influenced by a prominent Eaglesfield Quaker named Elihu Robinson, a competent meteorologist as well as an instrument manufacturer, who aroused his interest in Mathematics and Meteorology.During his years at Kendal, Dalton collaborated in the almanac Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Diaries referring solutions to problems and questions and in 1787, he began to write a meteorological diary in which, during the following 57 years, he wrote down more than 200 & nbsp; 000 observations. At this time he also rediscovered the theory of atmospheric circulation now known as the Hadley cell.Dalton’s first publication was Meteorological Observations and Tests (1793), which contained the germs of several of his later discoveries, although in spite of this and of the originality of his treatment received little attention from other scholars. A second work by Dalton, Elements of English Grammar, was published in 1802.

Color blindness

Dalton by Thomas Phillips, National Portrait Gallery, London (1835).

In 1794, shortly after his arrival in Manchester, Dalton was elected a member of the Philosophical and Literary Society of Manchester, informally known as “Lit & amp; Phil », before which a few weeks later he presented his first work, Extraordinary facts related to the vision of colors, in which he postulated that the deficiencies in the perception of color are due to anomalies of the vitreous humor. It was the first time that not only the fact of the lack of perception of color in some people was described, but also a causal explanation was given to the phenomenon. Although his theory was discredited while he was still alive, the deep and methodical research he did on his own visual problem made such an impression that his name became the common term for color blindness, colorblindness.

Dalton left instructions that his eyes be preserved, which has allowed DNA tests published in 1995 to show that he actually suffered from a less common type of color blindness, deuteranopia, in which sensitive cones are missing. medium wavelengths, instead of functioning with a mutated form of its pigment, as in the most common type of color blindness.In addition to the blue and purple of the spectrum, Dalton was able to recognize a single color, yellow, or as he says in his publication:

What part of the image that others call red seems to me little more than a shadow or defect of light. After that, the orange, yellow and green look like a color that descends quite evenly from an intense yellow color to a rare one, creating what you might call different shades of yellow.

This work was followed by many others on various topics: about rain and dew and the origin of springs; about the heat; the color of the sky; the steam; the auxiliary verbs and participles of the English language; and about the reflection and refraction of light.

This blindness to certain colors sometimes made his scientific work difficult, especially in the laboratory, where he confused the reagent bottles. However, this did not prevent him from defending ideas firmly in his writings.

Another example of this blindness that accompanied him throughout his life occurred in 1832, when he went to meet King William IV and wore a scarlet academic dress (red), a color not usual for a man of his discretion. The reason: Dalton saw it dark gray, so he did not care about the surprise that day caused among his acquaintances. Color blindness was first described by John Dalton himself in 1808. Like his brother, he suffered from this genetic alteration that in simple terms prevented him from perceiving colors like red and green.

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