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John Dalton

Nature volume 154, page 594 (11 November 1944) | Download Citation



DR. BROCKBANK'S modest booklet, dated on the centenary of Dalton's death, does not bring forward any new material of primary importance bearing upon the philosopher's life and work; nevertheless, it will be welcomed by all who are interested in Daltoniana. It contains notes on Dalton's family history, on the Kendal and Manchester periods, on his appreciation of female society, and on his relationships with the Society of Friends and with Peter Clare, together with nine hitherto unpublished letters. There are also short chapters on colour-vision defects and the genesis of the atomic theory. It is revealing that Dalton found Boyle's style "so tedious and verbose" in his chemical tracts "that one cannot reap the full advantage from them, except they were condensed and digested a little better"; at the same time (1790) he regarded Boerhaave's "Elementa Chemiae", published in 1732, as "a capital" treatise, and approved also of the "essays of the present Bishop of Llandaff" (Richard Watson). Among other interesting details we may note that early in his career Dalton gave tuition for so little as a shilling an hour; that in 1792 he found London "a most surprising Place to a Stranger"; and that although he was often regarded as a gruff disciplinarian, some-what uncouth or even morose in manner, yet in his younger days he used to write extempore verses in the diaries of his lady friends.

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