RSC honours memory of Cumbrian scientist who produced the world-changing Atomic Theory


08 June 2007

Royal Society of Chemistry honours memory of Cumbrian scientist and Quaker who produced the world-changing Atomic Theory

The achievements of the scientist John Dalton were commemorated on Thursday 7 June at his birthplace in Cumbria.

The Royal Society of Chemistry unveiled a plaque in his honour at the cottage where he was born in Eaglesfield near Cockermouth. 

A BBC radio reporter interviews RSC fellow Mike Lappert, owner of the John Dalton cottage

A BBC radio reporter interviews RSC fellow Mike Lappert, owner of the John Dalton cottage

Dalton's greatest achievement was his Atomic Theory published in 1803, which established the principles that determine the composition of all materials. Atomic Theory marked the end of alchemy and provided the basis of all subsequent chemical investigations.

He was also the first person to recognise and describe colour-blindness, and the term Daltonism, from which he suffered, is still employed today.

Dalton's revelations concerning the atom stemmed from his fascination with weather, as he recorded atmospheric conditions daily throughout his life - when weather commentators say "since records began" they are referring to Dalton's 57-year practice of meteorological note-taking.

A Quaker by upbringing, modesty prevented him enjoying the adulation offered in his own lifetime. Upon his death the funeral crowds in Manchester, where he worked for many years, numbered 40,000.

John Dalton's cottage was bought in 1989 by a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. It has now been decided that the 17th century property will be eventually be left to the National Trust.

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