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The Size of Atoms


THE idea of an atom has been so constantly associated with incredible assumptions of infinite strength, absolute rigidity, mystical actions at a distance, and indivisibility, that chemists and many other reasonable naturalists of modern times, losing all patience with it, have dismissed it to the realms of metaphysics, and made it smaller than “anything we can conceive”. But if atoms are inconceivably small, why are not all chemical actions infinitely swift? Chemistry is powerless to deal with this question, and many others of paramount importance, if barred, by the hardness of its fundamental assumptions, from contemplating the atom as a real portion of matter occupying a finite space, and forming a not immeasurably small constituent of any palpable body.


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T., W. The Size of Atoms . Nature 1, 551–553 (1870).

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