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80 years

   
In 1811 Amedeo Avogadro hypothesized that equal volumes of gases at the same temperature and pressure contain equal numbers of molecules. From this hypothesis it followed that relative molecular weights of any two gases are the same as the ratio of the densities of the two gases under the same conditions of temperature and pressure. Avogadro also astutely reasoned that simple gases were not formed of solitary atoms but were instead compound molecules of two or more atoms. (Avogadro did not actually use the word atom; at the time the words atom and molecule were used almost interchangeably. He talked about three kinds of "molecules," including an "elementary molecule"—what we would call an atom.) Thus Avogadro was able to overcome the difficulty that Dalton and others had encountered when Gay-Lussac reported that above 100oC the volume of water vapor was twice the volume of the oxygen used to form it. According to Avogadro, the molecule of oxygen had split into two atoms in the course of forming water vapor.

Curiously, Avogadro's hypothesis was neglected for half a century after it was first published. Many reasons for this neglect have been cited, including some theoretical problems, such as Jöns Jakob Berzelius's "dualism," which asserted that compounds are held together by the attraction of positive and negative electrical charges, making it inconceivable that a molecule composed of two electrically similar atoms—as in oxygen—could exist. In addition, Avogadro was not part of an active community of chemists: the Italy of his day was far from the centers of chemistry in France, Germany, England, and Sweden, where Berzelius was based.

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In 1811 Amedeo Avogadro hypothesized that equal volumes of gases at the same temperature and pressure contain equal numbers of molecules. From this hypothesis it followed that relative molecular weights of any two gases are the same as the ratio of the densities of the two gases under the same conditions of temperature and pressure. Avogadro also astutely reasoned that simple gases were not formed of solitary atoms but were instead compound molecules of two or more atoms. (Avogadro did not actually use the word atom; at the time the words atom and molecule were used almost interchangeably. He talked about three kinds of "molecules," including an "elementary molecule"—what we would call an atom.) Thus Avogadro was able to overcome the difficulty that Dalton and others had encountered when Gay-Lussac reported that above 100oC the volume of water vapor was twice the volume of the oxygen used to form it. According to Avogadro, the molecule of oxygen had split into two atoms in the course of forming water vapor.

Curiously, Avogadro's hypothesis was neglected for half a century after it was first published. Many reasons for this neglect have been cited, including some theoretical problems, such as Jöns Jakob Berzelius's "dualism," which asserted that compounds are held together by the attraction of positive and negative electrical charges, making it inconceivable that a molecule composed of two electrically similar atoms—as in oxygen—could exist. In addition, Avogadro was not part of an active community of chemists: the Italy of his day was far from the centers of chemistry in France, Germany, England, and Sweden, where Berzelius was based. More...

 
    John Dalton, First Useful Atomic Theory
  John Dalton, First Useful Atomic Theory
John Dalton was an English chemist, meteorologist and physicist. He is best known for his pioneering work in the development of modern atomic theory, and his research into colour blindness. He developed the first useful atomic theory of matter aro...
 
       
 
         
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