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date: 22 September 2018


A New Dictionary of Eponyms

Morton S. Freeman


John Dalton (1766–1844) was the consummate scientist. His interests embraced research, theories, and experimentation.

Dalton was not permitted to attend Cambridge or Oxford because those schools were open only to members of the Church of England, and Dalton was born a Quaker. So determined was he to make something of himself that, although primarily self-taught (he had only an elementary-school education), he pursued his interests with complete dedication, eventually becoming president of the Philosophical Society, an honorary office he held until his death.

Dalton's study of gases led to the development of partial pressure, known as Dalton's law. His meteorological surveys laid the groundwork for his atomic theory, for which he was elected to the Royal Society and awarded a medal.

Dalton and his brother were color blind. For this personal reason he devoted research time to this visual defect and was the first to describe the condition in a paper titled Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours (1794). Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), the inventor of the kaleidoscope, later introduced the term color blindness to denote defective color vision.

With a vision for the future, John Dalton willed his eyes to science to further the study of color blindness. Daltonism has become a synonym for color blindness.