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Ancient History of Atoms

Updated on December 10, 2012

History of Atoms

Since some of the earliest civilizations, man has pondered our existence and while religion dominated as the most obvious and sole explanation to many, a few thought the story might be a bit more complicated. Leucippus, an inhabitant of ancient Greece, is generally accepted as the first to suggest the idea of atoms. Leucippus thought the universe consists of two elements: the full/solid and the empty/void and he believed they were infinite. His views were expounded upon by Democritus, another Greek philosopher (and his student).

Democritus believed in an infinite universe with infinite worlds. He thought these infinite worlds were spaced at different distances from each other, and he thought they were destroyed when they collided with each other. He believed some planets were devoid of life, while others had an abundance.

According to Democritus

“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion”--Democritus

1. Atoms cannot be destroyed.

2. Atoms exist in a void.

3. Atoms are too small to be perceived by the senses.

4. Atoms have varying shapes.

5. Atoms can group together to create things we can perceive with our senses.

6. Shape, arrangement, and position of atoms cause different things to be formed.

7. Atoms cannot be divided.

8. Atoms are always in motion in space.

Future of Atomic Theory

Unfortunately, Leucippus and Democritus' ideas were far too advanced for their time. The Greeks dismissed the notion of atoms, and there was little more serious consideration of atomic theory for a long time.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Superbly illmiunating data here, thanks!

    • W. K. Hayes profile image

      W K Hayes 

      10 years ago from Bryson City, North Carolina

      Science is a grand subject that has led to many discoveries and even some of the wackiest notions, throughout history. Although Stephen Hawkins tried to prove that God does not exist by mathematical equation, I still respect his gifted genius.

      As for atoms...they are the basis of nano-technology and I look forward to the day of success in this field. Computers the size of atoms, capable of forming any material, will unlock many doors to the universe for humanity and they are very, very close even as I write this.

      Great article and I look forward to your follow-up report regarding atoms. If I can be of any assistance with your research, please let me know.

    • jwood00 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from the other side of morning

      I love Carl Sagan, and I agree he had the ability to make science interesting for anyone. I'm not sure if I could pull off an approach similar to his or Bill's. I think the biggest problem, at least in the U.S., is that there is such resistance to even considering scientific concepts. Once you get past that issue, there is so much misinterpretation of science by a great deal of people. I like the idea of using music or the arts to attract interest, since they are enjoyed universally, and I'm passionate about them myself. As for hubpages, I will keep experimenting.

    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 

      10 years ago from Canada

      If you do like the science-popularizers do, the Carl Sagans and the Bill Nyes, a different approach might do it. Science and its history are plenty surprising. For example, Bill Bryson's book A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING had some amazing -- and scary -- things to say.

    • jwood00 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from the other side of morning

      Hi Alex. Thanks for the comment. :-) I do too, and I write them elsewhere. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with hubpages, though, because I don't feel like there is much interest in science here.

    • alexfantastico profile image


      10 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Great! I love science articles. I really can't wait to read your hub on the more modern atomic theory though!

    • jwood00 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from the other side of morning

      Hi Pierre. Thank you for reading and commenting. :-) I plan to write another article that details more recent history of atomic theory.

    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 

      10 years ago from Canada

      Yes, in Greek it's "atomos" which is from the Greek a- (not) and "tomos" (cutting). So atoms can't be cut. We see the same roots in words like "lobotomy" or "colostomy". Of course, in the nuclear age there are ways to "cut" the atom by nuclear reactions, so it's no longer really a correct term.

      Of course, the classic "orbiting electron" model of the atom was abandoned later in favor of the strange new quantum view of the atom.


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