In this post, I will continue the study of general chemistry by beginning with the second chapter of topics that are covered in your university textbooks and lecture course. The topic of focus today will be the atomic theory.
In a previous post, I discussed elements. In this post I will remind you that the elements are the building blocks of the world, like the 26 letters of the alphabet are the building blocks of the English language. Just as all things are constructed from the elements, so are words from letters. More particularly, the atoms that form the various elements are what make up the material world (Zumdahl and DeCoste 2008).
With that in mind, I will move on to the atomic theory. John Dalton (1766-1844) was a British chemist who laid out the basic theory for us. The most basic way of understanding Dalton’s theory Is that atoms are small particles which make up any and all forms of matter (Ebbing and Gammon 2009). When learning about Dalton’s theory, postulates (or basic statements) are often listed as follows, per Ebbing and Gammon:
Dalton’s atomic theory was responsible for the successful explanation of some well-known phenomena, such as the law of constant composition that was discussed above. Dalton’s theory, like many other scientific theories, even the ones we know of today, was initially met with some opposition. However, this did not discourage Dalton, who used his model to predict how a given pair of elements might combine to form multiple different compounds, such as in the case of nitrogen and oxygen, which can form NO (one atom each of nitrogen and oxygen) or N2O (with two atoms of nitrogen and one atom of oxygen), amongst other combinations. Once it was found that these different compounds actually did exist, a lot of credibility was given to Dalton’s model, and Dalton continued to correctly predict how multiple compounds might form from two elements (Zumdahl and DeCoste 2008).
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