Wednesday, 5 June 2013

John Dalton and Manchester

This is a post that I originally wrote for the ICHSTM Blog

In 1793 the Quaker meteorologist, phyicist, and chemist John Dalton moved from Kendal, in north-west England, to Manchester. His decision to move to the burgeoning industrial city was influenced by the presence of Chetham's Library and its important collection of scientific and mathematical works, amongst other factors.

Chetham's Library, the oldest free public reference library in the UK, was founded in 1653 at the bequest of Humphrey Chetham, a wealthy local merchant. By the time of Dalton's arrival in Manchester the library already housed copies of the most vital scientific works, periodicals and journals of the period. Today, included in its vast and fascinating collections, are items of John Dalton's including letters and a notebook he wrote shortly before moving to Manchester.

Unfortunately, during July the library's reading room is closed due to refurbishments, but it is still possible for ICHSTM attendees to visit the library. We strongly encourage contacting the library in advance if you choose to take this opportunity to explore this example of Manchester's rich history of science.
Famously, Dalton went on to become an influential and important figure in nineteenth-century chemistry, developing work on colour blindness and atomic theory whilst living in Manchester. During his lifetime Dalton was a hugely popular figure in Manchester society. Notable sculptor Chantrey produced a bust and statue of Dalton prior to his death, which are currently located in Manchester Town Hall.

Another tribute to Dalton. Ford Maddox Brown's mural of Dalton collecting marsh gas is part of a series of 12, Manchester Murals comissioned to depict the history of the city, which adorn the Great Hall in Manchester Town Hall.
Source: Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain
Perhaps fittingly, the Congress takes place on the 169th anniversary of Dalton's death. From John Dalton Street, which runs off Albert Sqaure, to the John Dalton Building, home to the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dalton is still very much a feature of modern Manchester. John Dalton had a lasting impact not only on the scientific disciplines he pioneered, but on the city he called home for most of his life.

If you are interested in the uses of city-focused histories, come along to E309, Manchester in the history of science, technology and medicine: lessons from local heritage on the Tuesday of the Congress to hear presentations by local colleagues and take part in discussion.

For more on ICHSTM and the associated local and public events due to take place in the last week of July follow the Congress on Twitter @ichstm2013.

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