researches of physicists on the constitution of matter (q.v.), also furnish very strong support to the theory.
Dalton was of the opinion that it was possible to determine the weights of the elementary atoms in terms of any one by the analysis of compounds. It is evident that this is practicable if the number and kind of atoms contained Atomic weight. in the molecule of a compound can be determined. To take the simplest possible case, if Dalton had been correct in assuming that the molecule of water was made up of one atom of oxygen and one of hydrogen, then the experimental fact that water contains eight parts by weight of oxygen to one part of hydrogen, would at once show that the atom of oxygen is eight times as heavy as the atom of hydrogen, or that, taking the atomic weight of hydrogen as the unit, the atomic weight of oxygen is 8. Similarly, Dalton’s diagram for ammonia, together with the fact that ammonia contains 4.67 parts of nitrogen to one of hydrogen, at once leads to the conclusion that the atomic weight of nitrogen is 4.67. But, unfortunately, the assumption as to the number of atoms in the molecules of these two compounds was an arbitrary one, based on no valid evidence. It is now agreed that the molecule of water contains two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, so that the atomic weight of oxygen becomes 16, and similarly that the molecule of ammonia contains three atoms of hydrogen and one of nitrogen, and that consequently the atomic weight of nitrogen is 14. On account of this difficulty, the atomic weights published by Dalton, and the more accurate ones of Berzelius, were not always identical with the values now accepted, but were often simple multiples or submultiples of these.
The “symbols” for the elements used by Dalton, apparently suggested by those of the alchemists, have been rejected in favour of those which were introduced by Berzelius. The latter employed the first letter, or the first two letters, Formulae. of the name of an element as its symbol. The symbol, like that of Dalton, always stands for the atomic weight of the element, that is, while H stands for one part by weight of hydrogen, O stands for 16 parts of oxygen, and so on. The symbols of compounds become very concise, as the number of atoms of one kind in a molecule can be expressed by a sub-index. Thus the symbol or formula H2O for water expresses the view that the molecule of water consists of one atom of oxygen and two of hydrogen; and if we know the atomic weights of oxygen and hydrogen, it also tells us the composition of water by weight. Similarly, the modern formula for ammonia is NH3.
The superiority of this notation over that of Dalton is not so obvious when we consider such simple cases as the above, but chemists are now acquainted with very complex molecules containing numerous atoms; cane sugar, for example, has the formula C12H22O11. It would be a serious business to draw a Daltonian diagram for such a molecule.
Dalton believed that the molecules of the elementary gases consisted each of one atom; his diagram for hydrogen gas makes the point clear. We now believe that the molecule of an element is frequently made up of two or more atoms; thus the formulae for the gases hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are H2, O2, N2, while gaseous phosphorus and sulphur are probably P4 and S6, and gaseous mercury is Hg1,—that is, the molecule of this element is monatomic. This view, as to the frequently complex nature of the elementary molecule, is logically and historically connected with the striking hypothesis of Amadeo Avogadro and A. M. Ampère. These natural philosophers suggested that equal volumes of all gaseous substances must contain, at the same temperature and pressure, the same number of molecules. Their hypothesis explains so many facts that it is now considered to be as well established as the parts of the theory due to Dalton. This principle at once enables the weights of molecules to be compared even when their composition is unknown; it is only necessary to determine the specific gravities of the various gases referred to some one of them, say hydrogen; the numbers so obtained giving the weights of the molecules referred to that of the hydrogen molecule.
The atomic theory has been of priceless value to chemists, but it has more than once happened in the history of science that a hypothesis, after having been useful in the discovery and the co-ordination of knowledge, has been abandoned Present position of the atomic theory. and replaced by one more in harmony with later discoveries. Some distinguished chemists have thought that this fate may be awaiting the atomic theory, and that in future chemists may be able to obtain all the guidance they need from the science of the transformations of energy. But modern discoveries in radioactivity are in favour of the existence of the atom, although they lead to the belief that the atom is not so eternal and unchangeable a thing as Dalton and his predecessors imagined, and in fact, that the atom itself may be subject to that eternal law of growth and decay of which Lucretius speaks. (F. H. Ne.)
ATONEMENT and DAY OF ATONEMENT. “Atone” (originally—see below—“at one”) and “atonement” terms ordinarily used as practically synonymous with satisfaction, reparation, compensation, with a view to reconciliation. As the English technical terms The religious doctrine. representing a theological doctrine which plays an important part not only in Christianity but in most religions, the underlying ideas require more detailed analysis. A doctrine of atonement makes the following presuppositions. (a) There is a natural relation between God and man in which God looks favourably upon man. (b) This relation has been disturbed so that God regards man’s character and conduct with disapproval, and inflicts suffering upon him by way of punishment. In the higher religions the disturbance is due, as just implied, to unsatisfactory conduct on man’s part, i.e. sin. (c) The normal relation may be restored, i.e. sin may be forgiven; and this restoration is the atonement.
The problem of the atonement is the means or condition of the restoration of man to God’s favour; this has been variously found (a) in the endurance of punishment; (b) in the payment of compensation for the wrong done, the compensation consisting of sacrifices and other offerings; (c) in the performance of magical or other ritual, the efficacy of the ritual consisting in its being pleasing to or appointed by God, or even in its having a coercive power over the deity; (d) in repentance and amendment of life. Most theories of atonement would combine two or more of these, and would include repentance and amendment. Some or all of the conditions of atonement may be fulfilled, according to various views, either by the sinner or vicariously on his behalf by some kinsman; or by his family, clan or nation; or by some one else.
In the Old Testament, “atonement,” “make an atonement” represent the Hebrew kippur and its derivatives. It is doubtful whether this root meant originally to “cover” or “wipe out”; but probably it is used as a technical Old Testament. term without any consciousness of its etymology. The Old Testament presents very varied teaching on this subject without attempting to co-ordinate its doctrines in a harmonious system. In some cases there is no suggestion of any forgiveness; sinners are “cut off” from the chosen people; individuals and nations perish in their iniquity. Some passages refer exclusively to the endurance of punishment as a condition of pardon; others to the penitence and amendment of the sinner. In Ezekiel xxxvi. 25-31, repentance is called forth by the divine forgiveness.
Sacrifice and other rites are also spoken of as conditions of the restoration of man to happy relations with God. The Priestly Code (Leviticus and allied passages) seems to confine the efficacy
- It will be seen that in the three gas diagrams of Dalton that are reproduced above, equal numbers of molecules are contained in equal volumes, but if Dalton held this view at one time he certainly afterwards abandoned it.
- Rutherford, Radioactivity.
- Cf. Exodus xii. 15, &c.; Josh. vii. 24 (Achan); Jer. li. 62 (Babylon).
- 2 Sam. xii. 13, 14 (David); Isaiah xl. 2 (Jerusalem): in such cases, however, the context implies repentance.
- Ezek. xviii., Micah vi.