William Prout (1785–1850): a multifaceted chemist and physician
Prout’s personal and professional history makes us known as a scholar who has made important contributions in many fields of knowledge, from chemistry to physiology and medicine. In this article we will deal with two aspects of his research both derived from his early work on the relationship between density and atomic weights of gases that he was among the first to set up. The first is the conception of the structure of the atom, the second is the idea of the diatomicity of the molecules of elementary gases.
William Prout and the unitary hypothesis
William Prout (1785 – 1850) was a chemist and physician who is known for his unitary hypothesis, which is that the atoms of all elements are made up of a set of hydrogen atoms. This conception of atoms is hardly mentioned in school textbooks, despite the fact that he has conditioned the history of chemistry for over a century, obtaining both a strong consensus and an equally rejection by the community of chemists and physicists. Precisely because of the consequences that this hypothesis contained in itself, he had the merit of stimulating the research that led to the unveiling of the structure of atoms. At the end of his journey, he showed that he had a foundation: the mass of atoms is determined by protons and neutrons, particles with a mass equivalent to that of a hydrogen atom.
The first PDF attached tells the story of this unitary hypothesis
William Prout as Amedeo Avogadro
The medical Prout, whose research and discoveries are another aspect of his quality as a scientist, will not be addressed in this article. Another face of this multifaceted scientist will be highlighted, which is completely neglected. It concerns his intuitions on the conception of diatomic molecules of elementary gases in relation to the determination of atomic weights. With great surprise we see that he autonomously conceived what is called “Avogadro’s principle but he posed it in a surprisingly clear way.
The second attached PDF develops this part