A Brief Biography of John Dalton

By Tim Lambert

His Early Life

John Dalton was a great scientist of the early 19th century. He is famous for his theory of atoms. Dalton was born on 6 September 1766 in Eaglesfield, Cumbria, England. His father, Joseph Dalton was a weaver. His mother was called Deborah and the couple had 4 children. John received an elementary education at a Quaker school but he was mainly self-taught. When he was only 10 Dalton entered the service of a Quaker called Elihu Robinson.

But when he was just 12 Dalton set up his own school. However, his school failed. Dalton then joined his brother Jonathan as an assistant at a school in Kendal. Meanwhile, Dalton had a passion for science and he studied the subject enthusiastically.

Then in 1793 Dalton was offered a position as a professor of mathematics and philosophy at Manchester Academy. The same year, 1793 he published his first work, Meteorological Reflections, And Essays.

The Great Scientist

Dalton joined the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. In 1794 he read them a paper on colour blindness, which for a long time was called Daltonism after him. However, by 1800 the academy was in financial trouble. Dalton left and began earning a living as a private tutor in mathematics and science.

Meanwhile, he investigated gases and in 1803 he published his law of partial pressures. Then, in 1808 Dalton published his great work A New System of Chemical Philosophy in which he stated his atomic theory.

In 1832 Dalton was granted an honorary degree by Oxford University. Then in 1833, he was granted a pension from the British government. At first, it was a modest amount (150 pounds a year) but it was doubled to 300 pounds in 1836. John Dalton died on 27 July 1844. He was buried in Ardwick Cemetery in Manchester. 

There is a crater on the Moon named after Dalton.