The History Of The Atom Part 2

Aristotle and Roger Joseph Boscovich

by Pameer Saeed 13O



Aristotle was born around 360 BCE in Stagira (north Greece). He was the son of Nichomachus who was the court physician to the Macedonian royal family. He was first trained in medicine, and in 367 he was sent to Athens to study philosophy with Plato. He died in 322 BC, in Chalcis, Greece.

He wrote of and studied many topics such as ethics, theatre, metaphysics, zoology, poetry, and music and taught the renowned Alexander the Great, who was so influenced by his teacher’s scientific knowledge that he insured experts including scientists, were present when he conquered so that they could make new discoveries along the way.

Aristotle was believed to understand much of the world around him and many people stated that he knew everything that was known at the time when he was alive.

Sometime around 340 BCE Aristotle described his idea of five elements of Matter which was unfortunately believed for a very long time.

Aristotle had a view that was rather foreign to our modern concept of matter. He believed that there were only five elements: air which was light, earth which was cool and heavy, water which was wet, fire which was hot, and Aether which he viewed as a divine substance which made up the stars and planets. Aristotle believed that all matter was made up either of one of the elements of water air earth and fire or combinations of these four elements, with the exception of stars and planets which were made of Aether.


Aristotle’s theory of matter has been proven wrong. Many more elements have been discovered. One only has to look at the periodic table to see this is the case. The only thing Aristotle discovered that carries on to the modern atomic theory is the fact that there are elements, which is implied in his theory. Despite this, Aristotle’s theory did contribute to the atomic theory in a negative way by delaying the emergence of the true atomic theory. It has been said that Aristotle discovered much on many areas of science, leading both to ideas causing some of the greatest progresses in science but also to ideas that led to some of the greatest hindrances to scientific progress.  While many biological discoveries led to progress in our understanding of the human condition, his ideas on “matter” were a hindrance. Due to the scientific progress some of Aristotle’s ideas brought about, Aristotle was revered in the Middle Ages. His ideas were therefore generally unquestioned. Only in the period of the alchemists did this begin to change. Until then, there were long periods of acceptance of false ideas and concepts designed by a man who made many observations and theories which led to great progress.


Roger Joseph Boscovich


Roger Josph Boscovish was born on 18 May 1711 in Ragusa, Dubrovnik Republic (now Dubrovnik, Croatia). He was a physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, diplomat, poet, Jesuit, and a polymath. He studied and lived in Italy and France and “He was extraordinarily sharp of mind, comprehensive in intelligence, and tireless in application” – in short, an outstanding student. He learnt science in a way characteristic of his later career, through independent study of mathematics, physics and astronomy. He died on 13 February 1787 in Milan, Hapsburg Empire (now Italy).

He is most famous for his atomic theory and he made many important contributions to astronomy, including the first geometric procedure for determining the equator of a rotating planet from three observations of a surface feature and for computing the orbit of a planet from three observations of its position. In 1753 he also discovered the absence of atmosphere on the Moon.

Boscovich published a book in 1758 where he criticised Newton’s concepts of absolute space and time, absolute motion, action-at-a-distance, and atomism.

Boscovich’s idea of atoms opposed the older Lucretian theory that an atom is an extended, hard and elastic body. He intended to explain all natural phenomena by postulating the non-extended atom (point-atom) and the law of force between atoms. The influence of his theory was wide in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries especially in Britain. He believed that the force between atoms were repulsive at very small distances, attractive and repulsive alternately with increasing distance and attractive, following the law of gravitation, at macroscopic distances. Based on these assumptions he intended to account for the properties of matter.

His ideas spread in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries namely that point-atoms interact at a distance and that those atoms are singular points in the field of force.

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