Well, Richard feynman, did write in his first volume in his lectures on physics:
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.
He neglected to say that such a theory had been discovered over two millenia ago, and in two places - Buddhist India and Ancient Greece. No cataclysm occured. Its merely that these were understood as the esoteric musing of so called natural philosophers, and perhaps not to be taken too seriously by the ordinary man. Thus they have led a kind of secret and underground life known only to specialists of ancient and medieval philosophy; until the rennaisance where they burst again into new life. Newton notion of a corpuscule would have been unthinkable without this prior discovery.
Moreover, these two ancient conceptions, which on the face of it are similar are also dis-similar; for example, the Greek atoms are permanent elements of reality; whereas the buddhist conception, given their notion of Pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origin or arising), is not; according to Noa Ronkin, this kind of atomism was developed in the Sarvastivada and Sautrantika schools for whom material reality can be:
reduced to discrete momentary atoms, namely, the four primary elements. These momentary atoms, through their spatial arrangement and by their concatenation with prior and posterior atoms of the same type, create the illusion of persisting things as they appear in our everyday experience. Atomic reality is thus understood first and foremost as change, though not in the sense of a thing x transforming into y.
That is, change itself is the very nature of atomic reality rather than its being made of enduring substances the qualities of which undergo change. Atoms that appear to endure are, in fact, a series of momentary events that ascend and fall in rapid succession and in accordance with causal relations. Unlike the atoms of the Vaifesika, the atoms of the Sarvastivada-Vaibhasika and the Sautrantika are not permanent: they come into being and cease from one moment to the next going through a process of birth, continuance, decay and destruction. Yet the material compounds that consist of these atoms are real, if only in the minimal, phenomenological sense
Thus the buddhist atoms, as described in popular book, the Tao of Physics, is much closer to the modern conception.
Moreover, it ought to be understood that atoms aren't the whole story. Aristotle certainly didn't think so, and nor did Thales and Parmenides. One might consider this the otherside of the story, the story of continua, and the way that continua carry motion is through waves.
Again, it is only in the last century that they have been understood as two sides of the same question - the question of what constitutes ontological change, that is physical.