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A History of Atomic Theory
Atomic Models
What is a model ?
detailed, 3-D representation of an object
- typically on smaller scale than original
model airplane
model car
clothing model
Let’s Take a Trip Through
It Started with the Greeks
• Lived in Greece 2500
years ago (460-370 BC)
• “Father of modern
Demacritus said: “All matter is
made of atoms that are tiny,
indestructible and indivisible.”
Greek banknote with Democritus and drawing of atom
Where did Democritus get his ideas for
small, indestructible, indivisible atoms?
Atoms are small…
new rings
old ring
old gold rings wear away slowly, getting
thinner and thinner, but you never see gold
atoms on your finger, so gold atoms must be
very small!
Atoms are indestructible…
• Earth has been around long time
• Mountains wash away but rocks continue
to exist
• New plants grow where old plants die
Atoms are indivisible…
This was HYPOTHESIS made by
Democritus to explain nature as he saw it.
What did Democritus think
atoms looked like?
Appearance of atoms assumed based on
• Liquids pour
• Solids are hard and rigid
Liquids pour. Why?
Greek idea of liquid atom
If liquid atoms were like little balls they
would roll out when you tip the container
Liquids require a container
Solids are rigid. Why?
Velcro® fastener
cockleburs stick on
clothing and each other
Velcro hooks and loops
little hooks on cockleburs
Greek idea of solid atom
Aristotle had different ideas
Greek banknote and coin picturing Aristotle
• famous Greek philosopher, born 384 BC
• student of Plato (another famous philosopher)
• teacher of Alexander the Great (who later conquered the
Aristotle’s idea of matter
Aristotle did not believe
Democritus’s idea of atoms
was correct
Aristotle believed all matter
made from four elements:
Aristotle’s idea of matter
Aristotle was more famous than
Democritus, so people believed
him, even though he was
Democritus’s idea of atomos
(atoms) was lost for nearly
2000 years until John Dalton
brought it back in 1803
Atom idea lost for ~2000 years
John Dalton, New Atom,1803
Born in England, 1766
Studied chemistry, physics,
and color blindness
Brought back Democritus’s
idea of an indivisible atom
Color blindness
Can you see a number in this box?
If not, you may be color blind.
(More males are color blind than females)
Start writing -
Billard Ball Model
Dalton’s Theory of Atoms
Five parts (postulates):
# 1:
Elements are made of extremely
small particles called atoms
So according to Dalton’s theory:
atoms are considered to be like
billiard balls
# 2:
Atoms of given element are identical
in size, mass, & other properties;
Atoms of different elements are
different in size, mass, & other
(later found not to be exactly correct)
Atoms cannot be subdivided,
created, or destroyed
(later proved wrong)
Atoms of different elements
combine in simple
whole-number ratios to form
chemical compounds
2:1 ratio H:O)
In chemical reactions, atoms
are combined, separated and/or
Ex. of a chemical reaction:
 2NaOH + H2
Dalton’s Chemical Symbols
We use different symbols today
Plum Pudding Model
J.J. Thomson
English physicist (1856-1940)
won Nobel Prize in 1906
discovered ELECTRON
- studied cathode rays using
Crooke’s tube
- showed atoms were
Crooke’s tube
cathode rays:
(stream of electrons)
move from metal cathode
(on left) to cross-shaped
anode (on right)
cross-shaped shadow ↓
cathode ↓
cross-shaped anode ↑
cross-shaped shadow is cast on glass (on right)
shows … electrons are particles smaller than an atom
and have negative charge
Cathode Ray Tube Experiment
thought cathode rays were streams of particles smaller than atoms
magnetic fields deflect beam of charged particles
JJ Thomson’s discovery of
(-) charged electrons proved
that atoms were divisible!
Thomson’s “Plum pudding” atom
– electron
Thomson’s Plum Pudding Model:
(+) charge evenly spread
out while…
(-) charge found in
small bits –
like raisins in plum pudding
(or chocolate chips in cookies)
More About Charge…
opposite charges attract, like charges repel
RULE: Matter is NEUTRAL (no charge) so…
for every one (-) charged electron there must be one
something of (+) charge
What do we mean by charge?
MATTER IS NEUTRAL (no charge):
• (+) charges equal (-) charges
• charges cancel out each other
ELECTRONS are negatively charged (-1)
PROTONS are positively charged (+1)
ELECTRICAL CHARGE - property of matter:
• # electrons greater or less than # protons
batteries have (+) and (-) ends
Nuclear Model
Ernest Rutherford
• 1908: won Nobel Prize (Chemistry)
• 1920: discovered proton
discovered that most of
mass of atom is found in the
center (nucleus)
Rutherford’s Experiment – 1911
Rutherford’s exp’t: animation
Rutherford’s Gold Foil Experiment
Rutherford tested Thomson’s plum
pudding model of atom:
• sent tiny radioactive alpha (a) particles,
like bullets, towards thin sheet of gold foil
Rutherford gold foil experiment
expected a particles to pass
straight through, like this…
most a particles went straight through without hitting
anything, BUT a few were deflected, this means
a particles must have hit something:
really heavy
(+) charged
gold foil experiment scattering
results showed:
Plum pudding model of atom was
Rutherford devised new model that
fit his results…
proposed Nuclear Model
Rutherford concluded:
• all atoms have dense, positive (+) center
(center contains most of mass of atom)
• atom is mostly empty space
(except very tiny (–) electrons; but didn’t say where are)
electrons (–)
/ [protons (+)]
Problems with Rutherford’s Model
did not speculate
how electrons
arranged around (+)
to prevent (-) electrons
from being attracted to
(+) nucleus, electrons
must orbit nucleus like
Earth orbits sun
 e- need energy to orbit
nucleus & Rutherford
didn’t address this
name nucleus came later
So how BIG is the nucleus
compared to the entire atom?
If atom is as big as football stadium…
the nucleus is smaller than a
flea on 50-yard line!
If atom is as big as a period at the
end of a sentence in textbook,
 it
would have the mass of 70 cars!
So how big is an atom?
most atoms are 1-2 angstroms across
1 Å = 1 X 10-10 m
6 Billion Cu atoms in a line = less than 1
Can we “see” an atom?
James Chadwick
worked with Rutherford
1932: discovered neutron
1935: Nobel Prize (Physics)
Planetary Model
Niels Bohr 1885 - 1962
created quantized atom
model, 1915
worked on Manhattan
won Nobel Prize in 1922
Bohr’s model: e- only move from one energy level to
another in atom:
• e- absorb energy when jump from lower to higher
• e- emit energy when jump from higher to lower levels
Bohr’s new atomic model addressed issue of
atom’s nucleus surrounded by electrons:
e- have definite orbits
e- orbiting at different
energy levels
e- energy levels are
e- only move by
jumping levels
(n = 1, n = 2, etc.)
• absorb energy when they jump away from nucleus
• emit energy when they jump towards nucleus
Bohr’s Planetary Model
electrons travel only in specific orbits
each orbit has definite energy
inner most orbit (n=1): least energy
outer most orbit (n=7): most energy
atoms emit radiation when e- jumps from outer
orbit to inner orbit (photons of light)
e – in outermost orbits determine atom’s
chemical properties
Modern Wave Mechanical Model
Erwin Schrödinger
Austrian scientist (1887-1961)
• 1933: won Nobel Prize (Physics
• calculated wave model of
hydrogen atom (1926)
• Today’s atomic model called:
• modern model
• quantum mechanical model
• wave model
• cloud model
Schrödinger’s wave model of atom:
• e- behaves as:
energy wave
AND as
matter particle
If we could see an electron’s
path it might look like this “cloud”
(light also behaves as particle and wave)
Einstein had predicted that energy
and matter were related in his
equation E = mc2
Modern/Wave/Cloud Model
 electron’s
energy is quantized (specific values)
 electrons in probability zones called “orbitals”,
not orbits
- location cannot be pinpointed
 e- considered as both particles & waves
electrons move around nucleus at speed of light (3 x 108m/sec)
A Missing Particle – The Neutron
1932: James Chadwick
• discovered last major piece of
atom: neutron
(“neutral”, no charge)
1935: won Nobel Prize (Physics)
• neutron& proton weigh about
same while electron weighs
almost nothing
The Modern Model
an atom is:
• mostly empty space
nucleus: most of atom’s mass
nucleus contains protons & neutrons
electrons in energy levels around nucleus
electrons jump between levels, emitting & absorbing energy
as jump
Atomic Theory
400 BC
/ Heisenberg
The development of
atomic theory
represents the work
of many scientists
over approximately
100 years
Next Atomic Theory ?
Which one of you will
discover something new to
add to the atomic model of
the atom and win a Nobel
Prize in the future?