Atom – The smallest particle into which an element can be divided and still be the same substance. Element – A pure substance that cannot be separated into simpler substances by physical or chemical means. Atoms make up elements. Elements are made of only one kind of atom. Elements combine to form compounds. All matter is made of elements or compounds, so all matter is made of atoms. Atoms are so small that, until recently, no one had ever seen one. But ideas, or theories, about atoms have been around for over 2,000 years. Theory – A unifying explanation for a broad range of hypotheses and observations that have been supported by testing.
Democritus (440 B.C.) Democritus proposed that if you kept cutting a substance in half forever, eventually you would end up with an “uncuttable” particle. He called these particles atoms, meaning “indivisible” in Greek. Democritus thought that atoms were small, hard particles of a single material and in different shapes and sizes. He thought that atoms were always moving and formed different materials by combining with each other. Aristotle disagreed with Democritus’s idea that you would end up with an indivisible particle. Because Aristotle had greater public influence, Democritus’s ideas were ignored for centuries. John Dalton (1803) Scientists knew that elements combined with each other in specific proportions to form compounds.
Dalton claimed that the reason for this was because elements are made of atoms. He published his own three-part atomic theory: 1) All substances are made of atoms. Atoms are small particles that cannot be created, divided, or destroyed. 2) Atoms of the same element are exactly alike, and atoms of different elements are different. 3) Atoms join with other atoms to make new substances. Much of Dalton’s theory was correct, but some of it was later proven incorrect and revised as scientists learned more about atoms. J.J. Thomson (1897) Thomson used a cathode-ray tube to conduct an experiment which showed that there are small particles inside atoms. This discovery identified an error in Dalton’s atomic theory. Atoms can be divided into smaller parts.
Because the beam moved away from the negatively charged plate and toward the positively charged plate, Thomson knew that the particles must have a negative charge. He called these particles corpuscles. We now call these particles electrons. Electrons – The negatively charged particles found in all atoms. Thomson changed the atomic theory to include the presence of electrons. He knew there must be positive charges present to balance the negative
charges of the electrons, but he didn’t know where. Thomson proposed a model of an atom called the “plum-pudding” model, in which negative electrons are scattered throughout soft blobs of positively charged material.
Ernest Rutherford (1909) Rutherford conducted an experiment in which he shot…