John Dalton was a British weather pioneer. Born on the 6th of September in 1766, he was most famous for his scientific opinion that all matter is actually made up of small particles. Today, we know those particles are atoms. But, he was also fascinated by the weather each day. In 1787, he used homemade instruments to start recording weather observations.
Although the instruments he used were primitive, Dalton was able to create a large amount of data. Much of what Dalton did with his meteorological instruments helped to make the forecasting of weather into an actual science. When weather forecasters of today talk about the earliest existing weather records in the UK, they are generally referring to Dalton’s records.
Through the instruments he created, John Dalton could study humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure, and wind. He maintained these records for 57 years, until his death. Throughout those years, over 200,000 meteorological values were recorded. The interest that he had in weather moved into an interest in the gases that made up the atmosphere. In 1803 Dalton’s Law was created, and it dealt with his work in the area of partial pressures.
The greatest achievement for Dalton was his formulation of the atomic theory. He was preoccupied with the atmospheric gases, however, and the atomic theory formulation came about almost inadvertently. Originally, Dalton was trying to explain why gases stay mixed, instead of settling out in layers in the atmosphere. Atomic weights were basically an afterthought in a paper he presented, and he was encouraged to study them further.