John Dalton

The library of John Dalton  

Ronald Oliver and Michael Carrier 

Salford, UK: University of Salford | 2006 | 36 pp | ?10 (SB) | ISBN 1905732104 

Reviewed by Bill Griffith

John Dalton (1766-1844) was born in Eaglesfield, Cumbria, and a Royal Society of Chemistry National Chemical Landmark Plaque was unveiled on his house there on 8 June. His greatest achievement was his atomic theory of 1803. He was also the first person to do research on colour-blindness (’Daltonism’) from which he suffered. He made daily weather observations - when meteorologists say ’since records began’ they refer to Dalton’s 57-year practice of taking these. 

This booklet is a partial catalogue of Dalton’s library. Although a friend of his said that ’he was not a great reader; indeed, I have heard him declare.....that he could carry his library on his back and yet not read half of the books which constituted it’ this is clearly untrue. During the preparation in 2003 of an exhibition marking the presentation of his first table of atomic weights in 1803 to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, an 1844 auctioneer’s catalogue of ’The late Dr Dalton’s effects’ was found in the archives of the Manchester Central Reference Library. It listed some 700 items from his library; many of them are now dispersed, though his first edition of a volume of Newton’s Principia Mathematica  survives in Durham. 

This booklet gives fuller details of 89 of the volumes, tracts and pamphlets on an eclectic range of subjects, and has a number of illustrations of the catalogue and of Dalton’s papers and notebooks. It will undoubtedly be of interest to Dalton scholars.