Modern atomic theory of matter is often attributed to Dalton in 1803, with roots going all the way back to Democritus, but I was wondering about early modern antecedents of Dalton's theory, perhaps in the 18th or even early 19th century. Were the general outlines of the atomic theory of matter accepted already at the dawn of the scientific revolution, who were the physicists involved, what were the elements of Dalton's theory that were already generally accepted before he came on the scene, and what were the genuinely new aspects in Dalton's formulation?
Regarding Early Modern Atomism and chemistry, some possible sources of information are :
for Atomism :Robert Hugh Kargon, Atomism in England from Hariot to Newton (1970) and Antonio Clericuzio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles: A Study of Atomism and Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century (2000)
for Pierre Gassendi : Lynn Sumida Joy, Gassendi the Atomist: Advocate of History in an Age of Science (1987)
and, of course,
- for Robert Boyle : Steven Shapin &Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (2nd ed, 2011) and William R. Newman, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry & the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (2006).
Also very useful :
- Katharine Park & Lorraine Daston (editors), The Cambridge History of Science. Volume 3 : Early Modern Science (2006); see : Ch. 21 From Alchemy to “Chymistry”, by William R.Newman, page 497-on
- Roy Porter (editor), The Cambridge History of Science. Volume 4 : Eighteenth-Century Science (2003); see : Ch.16 : Chemistry, by Jan Golinski, page 375-on.
I mention Bošković (also spelled Boscovich) because he was after Newton (and his corpuscles) and before Faraday, who introduced the field concept and said in 1844 that
the safest course appears to be to assume as little as possible, and that is why the atoms of Boscovich appear to me to have a great advantage over the more usual notion,and Maxwell, who said in 1877 that
the best thing we can do is to get rid of the rigid nucleus and substitute an atom of Boscovich.Kelvin wrote in 1899:
Hooke’s exhibition of the forms of crystals by piles of globes, Navier’s and Poisson’s theory of the elasticity of solids, Maxwell’s and Clausius’ work in the kinetic theory of gases…all developments of Boscovich’s theory pure and simple.Kelvin wrote in 1905:
My present assumption is Boscovichianism pure and simple.
(See: Roger Joseph Boscovich by Whyte.)