atom: From Dalton to the Periodic Table

From Dalton to the Periodic Table

Modern atomic theory begins with the work of John Dalton, published in 1808. He held that all the atoms of an element are of exactly the same size and weight (see atomic weight) and are in these two respects unlike the atoms of any other element. He stated that atoms of the elements unite chemically in simple numerical ratios to form compounds. The best evidence for his theory was the experimentally verified law of simple multiple proportions, which gives a relation between the weights of two elements that combine to form different compounds.

Evidence for Dalton's theory also came from Michael Faraday's law of electrolysis. A major development was the periodic table, devised simultaneously by Dmitri Mendeleev and J. L. Meyer, which arranged atoms of different elements in order of increasing atomic weight so that elements with similar chemical properties fell into groups. By the end of the 19th cent. it was generally accepted that matter is composed of atoms that combine to form molecules.

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