The Atom

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  • 460

    Democritus's Atom model 460 B.C.

    Democritus's Atom model 460 B.C.
    Location: Greece
    Idea/experiment: Continued the work of his mentor, Leucippus. He formulated an atomic theory similar to modern science’s understanding of the atom.
    Contibution to the understanding of the atom: His theory suggested that atoms can’t be destroyed and exist in a void. Atoms only differ in shape, position and arrangement
  • Period: 460 to


  • Isaac Newton

    Isaac  Newton
    Location: England
    Experiment: Newton formulated a theory of light, the three laws of motion and suggested a mechanical universe with small, solid masses in motion.
    Contribution to our understanding of the atom: Newton suggested that atoms are held together with attractions, otherwise known as forces. He also stated that "matter is formed of solid, massy impenetrable particles”.
  • John Dalton

    John Dalton
    Location: England
    Idea/experiment: He proposed an atomic theory.
    Contribution to our understanding of the atom: Dalton stated (1) all matter was composed of small indivisible particles termed atoms, (2) atoms of a given element possess unique characteristics and weight, and (3) three types of atoms exist: simple (elements), compound (simple molecules), and complex (complex molecules).
  • George Johnstone Stoney

    George Johnstone Stoney
    Location: IrelandIdea/experiment: Introduced the term electron and estimated the charge carried by a single hydrogen atom.How this contributed to our understanding of the atom: Stoney introduced the term electron as the “fundamental unit quantity of electricity”.
  • Hantaro Nagaoka

    Hantaro Nagaoka
    Location: Japan
    Idea/experiment: Nagaoka’s most notable work included the Saturnian model and his work on spectroscopy
    Contribution to our understanding of the atom: Nagaoka created an early, incorrect model of an atom using an analogy based on Saturn’s rings. He also worked with British physicist C. G. Knott on spectroscopy.
  • Ernest Rutherford

    Ernest Rutherford
    Location: Britain/ New Zealand
    Idea/experiment: Rutherford was a chemist and a physicist who was also known as the father of nuclear physics
    Contribution to our understanding of the atom: Rutherford discovered the concept of the radioactive half life. He also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation. Rutherford is credited for performing the first splitting of an atom.
  • Neils Bohr

    Neils Bohr
    Location: Denmark
    Idea/experiment: Fundamental contributions to the understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics.
    Contribution to our understanding of the atom: By expanding on Rutherford’s earlier theory Bohr published his theory which suggested that electrons travel in specific orbits around the nucleus, that outer orbits can hold more electrons than the inner orbits and that these orbits determine the chemical properties of the atom.
  • James Chadwick

    James Chadwick
    Location: England
    Idea/experiment: Famous for his discovery of the neutron.
    Contriution to our understanding of the atom: Chadwick discovered the neutron, named because of the lack of electric charge, which was previously an unknown particle in the nucleus of an atom.