The History & Timeline of the Atom's Discovery by Scientists

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The atom was originally discovered way back in 460 BC. Find out about the history and timeline of the atom's discovery by scientists with help from an experienced chemistry professional in this free video clip.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Robin Higgins, and this is the history and timeline of the atoms discovery by scientists. Alright, so let's take a look at the timeline and exactly who did what and when. So, first of all we have Democritus in 460 BC and he had this idea of what if you have some kind of object, anything and you slice it in half. What do you get? And he found well, o.k., at first you get this smaller particle. And then, what happens if you cut that in half? and so, you get even smaller. And he thought, what happens if you just keep on cutting it in half over and over and over again? And thought to himself, well, I bet at the end there's one unbreakable particle that no longer can be cut in half. And so, this is kind of the first thought of an atom. But science wasn't really far enough along to prove it. So we had to wait a few hundred years till Dalton, 1803. And he basically did a series of experiments which proved that yes, there were these particles and you couldn't just break them in half and get something that was the same. This is a fundamental particle. And so then in 1897, you had Thompson. And what he discovered was that there were portions of the atom that had negative charges and portions of the atom that had positive charges. So, what he though the atom looked like was a bunch of electrons, so he named the electrons. And that they all had negative charges and that they're all kind of stuck in the middle of an atom. And overall the atom, all the goop has a positive charge. And this is called the Plum Pudding Model. Personally I never had plum pudding, but I guess Thompson probably did, he lived a long time ago. I think he's from England, O.k., so next, you have Rutherford. And what Rutherford did, is he discovered that it wasn't electrons stuck in a bunch of gunk. It was actually, there was a hard, little thing in the middle, which we now call the nucleus. And then, he knew that circling around the nucleus was the electrons that each had a negative charge. So, most of the mass came form the middle. So, now Bohr comes next, just a year later. And what he really does, is he sets the rules for the electrons. Because the initial thought was, well, if you have this positively charged nucleus and negatively charged electrons floating around it. Why don't the electrons just fly into the nucleus, since positive and negative charges are attracted? And Bohr came up with all these rules. And it said you know, electrons can only be in one orbital or one piece of space at a time. And then, they can jump and then, they'll have to return down. And all these kind of quantum rules. So, that's what Bohr did. And then, next we kind of have Einstein and a bunch of different people, all working pretty, up until recently. And it's basically gotten a lot more hazy. So, there's a lot of thing that the electron is not a particle but it has characteristics of a particle and a wave. And tons and tons of intense quantum mechanics diving into even what's past in atom and String Theory and all sorts of crazy stuff of crazy math. And that's where we are today. So, you can see we start out with just wondering what happens if we cut something in half. And now we're at math that a only a tiny percentage of the population can understand, not including me. I'm Robin Higgins and this is the scientific discovery of an atom.


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