Biography of John Dalton

Portrait of John Dalton

John Dalton was an eighteenth/nineteenth century chemist famous for his atomic theory.

When and Where was he Born?

6th September 1766, Eaglesfield, Cumbria, England.

Family Background:

John Dalton was the third of six children of a poor handloom weaver, Joseph Dalton who was a strict Quaker.


Taught at a Quaker School by Elihu Robinson.

Timeline of John Dalton:

1785: Dalton becomes principal teacher of the Quaker School in Kendal, Cumbria.

1787: He begins a series of meteorological observations.

1793: He becomes Tutor in Natural Philosophy at the Manchester Academy (a Presbyterian college). He writes “Meteorological Observations and Essays” which attract little attention.

1794: Dalton joins the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. He presents a paper to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical society on Colour Blindness, an affliction from which he suffered. This earliest description became known as Daltonism.

1799: He earns his living as a private tutor to give him more time to spend on his private scientific interests. The Manchester Literary and Scientific Society purchase a house at 36 George Street, Manchester where Dalton is allowed to live and work. (The house and many of the Society’s records were destroyed in 1940 during the Blitz).

1803: Dalton first advances his idea of atomic theory, which was based upon his study of the physical properties of atmospheric gases. He discovers the law of partial pressures of mixed gases which become known as Dalton’s Law.

1804: He delivers a series of courses at the Royal Institution, in London.

Portico Library, Manchester
The Portico Library in Manchester where Dalton was a reader. 
The building was established in 1806 and numbered Thomas de Quincey, 
Robert Peel and Elizabeth Gaskell amongst its members. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1808: He first publishes his ideas in “A New System of Chemical Philosophy”.

1819: Dalton becomes President of the Manchester Literary and Scientific Society.

1822: He is made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

1826: He is awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society.

1830: He becomes one of the eight Foreign Associates of the French Academy of Sciences.

1833: Dalton is granted a Civil Pension of £150 per year, which left him able to devote more time to his studies. He was also in a position now to help with the building of the Mount Street Meeting House in Manchester.

When and Where did he Die?

27th July 1844, Manchester, England of a stroke.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1793: “Meteorological Observations and Essays”.
1808: “New System of Chemical Philosophy”.


Never Married.

Site of Grave:

Mount Street Meeting House, Manchester.

Places of Interest:


Globe Hotel, Cockermouth.


Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS.
The Portico Library.

Scroll to Top