The history of the atomic theory. This essay discusses Aristotle, Democritus and Alchemy.

Essay by babydogg15High School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Democratus is credited for being one of the earliest known pioneers of Atomic Theory, living around 460 B.C. The scientist thought up a revolutionary and puzzling question: If a leaf were to be ripped in half again and again, could it (in theory) come down to a component so small that it could no longer be split? This question lead Democratus to the idea of an atom, which represented the tiniest, most basic building block of matter. This innovative scientist was known for conceptualizing many previously unheard of concepts. For instance, democratus thought that all things consisted of the same type of building blocks, both the shape and size as well as the connection varied, giving objects their unique properties (see Diagram 1). For example, he described gas as containing rapidly vibrating atoms, solids as containing highly condensed atoms, and liquids as containing viscous atoms.

Democritus was surprisingly close to the truth, but his theories would be rejected and proven inaccurate by scientists to follow.

One such scientist was Aristotle.


Aristotle lived around 360 BC, and it is through him that we have the majority of our information about Democritus. Aristotle's views on the make up of matter were entirely different; he felt that all matter was composed from a combination of the four e1ements: air, fire earth, and water. He believed that behind these four states were four qualities that had the potential to create the physical states of matter when combined. These four qualities were hot, cold, wet, and dry. These qualities were seen as the qualities or spirit of the matter as apposed to the physical themselves (see Diagram 2). Aristotle felt that matter began as spirit and transformed itself into the physical.

Aristotle's main purpose in writing about Democritus was to contest and...