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The Religious Affiliation of the Great Scientist
John Dalton


From: Dan Graves,
Scientists of Faith, Kregel Resources: Grand Rapids, MI (1996), pages 87-90: At the age of twelve, John Dalton opened his own school in an empty brn. He was able to tackle such a demanding task at that tender age because of his dogged approach to problems and because he was born a Quaker. At the time, only 1 Englishman of every 215 was literate--but all Quaker children were taught to read...

Dalton remained a Quaker and an educator his entire life. While still a young man, he took a job as an usher in a Quaker school... In manchester... he came under the influence of the philosopher John Gough... Gough, who suffered from blindness, encouraged the young man to keep a meteorological notebook. Dalton did so, and in keeping with his scrupulous Quaker beliefs he maintained it faithfully until his death...

[page 89] Chemiss everywhere quickly accepted Dalton's view [of atomic theory]. The Royal Society sought him out as a member. He resisted, perhaps because Quaker beliefs did not allow him to seek glory, perhaps because he could not pay the dues. But glory came to him regardless of his faith. He was quietly elected to the Society without his knowledge...

Oxford awarded him an honorary degree and sought to present him to the king. The scarlet robe of Oxford was suitable attire for a presentation to His Royal Highness, but its brightness was unacceptable to Quaker practices. Dalton, falling back on his color blindness, agreed to wear the robe, observing that he saw no scarlet.

This violation of Quaker forms was a rare lapse. Dalton was as faithul a Quaker as any, attending serviced twice each Sunday throughout his entire life. Often he served as a representative to his church's councils. Once he proposed that music be allowed into worship services, but when this was denied, he accepted the decision of his peers. By all accounts, he was a God-fearing, decent, and honest man...

[page 90] Unable to marry because of his poverty, he nonetheless found himself attracted to lovely Quaker girls and once lost his appetite for a week over an especially attractive young woman...

Dalton did not make his atomic disoveries out of great natural brilliance but out of dogged, steady work. Typical of Quakerism, his life was orderly to the point of rigidity...

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Webpage created 12 July 2005. Last modified 12 July 2005.
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