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Dalton's Atomic Theory

Pioneering work in the development of modern understanding of the atom.

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Where Would You Be Without Dalton?

Where Would You Be Without Dalton?

Credit: Troddel
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Artificial_turf_green.JPG
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

This putting green is covered with artificial turf. Artificial turf is made of plastic, one of the “wonders” of modern chemistry.

Why It Matters

  • Plastics are human-made substances that have an amazing range of uses, from artificial turf to modern appliances to synthetic fabrics. The reason plastics are so useful is that chemists have created them to have specific properties.
  • Before chemists could develop plastics and other “wonders” of modern chemistry, they first had to understand atoms. That’s where John Dalton comes in. Around 1800, he came up with a theory of the atom that was mainly correct and provided the basis of most of the chemistry that came after—including the development of plastics!
  • Credit: Wikimedia
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Daltons_symbols.gif
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Early drawings by Dalton representing various atoms and molecules [Figure2]

  • Watch this video that shows some of the many uses of plastics in modern life: http://casualfilms.com/uk/work/epca-chemistry-all-about-you/

What Do You Think?

At the links below, learn more about Dalton’s atomic theory and uses of plastics. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. Summarize Dalton’s atomic theory.
  2. Relate Dalton’s atomic theory to the ability of modern chemists to create plastics and the many other human-made substances we use in our daily lives.
  3. Write a paragraph describing a typical day in your life. Identify at least five times you use a plastic object.
  4. What do you think? Where would you be without Dalton?

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    Image Attributions

    1. [1]^ Credit: Troddel; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Artificial_turf_green.JPG; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
    2. [2]^ Credit: Wikimedia; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Daltons_symbols.gif; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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