William Prout

William Prout ( born January 15, 1785 Horton ( Gloucestershire ), † April 9, 1850 in London ) was an English physician and chemist; he made ​​an important contribution to the atomic theory.

Life and work

He was the son of a farmer, John Prout († 1820). He spent his life as a practicing physician in London, but was much occupied with chemical research. He worked on biochemical topics and conducted many analyzes of secretions of living organisms. He believed that the secretions would arise from the decay of body tissue. In 1823 he discovered that the gastric juice contains hydrochloric acid, which can be isolated by distillation. In 1827 he suggested to divide the substances in food in carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

However, he is remembered more for his research in physical chemistry. In 1815 he presented - starting from the then known about 20 atomic masses - the hypothesis that the atomic mass of each element is an integer multiple of the atomic weight of hydrogen. Thus, the hydrogen atom is the only fundamental particles and the atoms of the other elements are composed of different groups of hydrogen atoms.

Although the integrality was already adopted since 1803 with the atomic masses published by John Dalton in opposition and was refuted by later more accurate measurements of the atomic masses. Prout's approach, however, promised such a fundamental insight into the structure of the atom that Ernest Rutherford discovered in 1920 the first building block of atomic nuclei the name proton (Greek proton " the First " ) and therefore was in order at the same time to honor William Prout.

Prout also contributed to the improvement of the barometer. The Royal Society in London took over its construction as a standard.

Works (selection)

  • Prout, William: Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion, Considered with reference to Natural Theology, one of the Bridgewater Treatises ..
  • Prout, William: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Treatment of Diabetes, Calculus, and Other Affections of the Urinary organ, 2, Baldwin, Craddock, and Joy, London 1825.
  • Prout, William ( 1834). Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion Considered with Reference to Natural Theology; Bridgewater Treatises, W. Pickering ( reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 9781108000666 )
  • Prout, William: Correction of a Mistake in the Essay on the Relation Between The Specific gravities of Bodies in Their Gaseous State and the Weights of Their atom. In: Annals of Philosophy. 7, 1816, pp. 111-113.
  • Prout, William: On the Nature and Treatment of Stomach and Urinary Diseases, 3, John Churchill, London, 1849.
  • Prout, William: On the Relation Between The Specific gravities of Bodies in Their Gaseous State and the Weights of Their atom. In: Annals of Philosophy. 6, 1815, pp. 321-330.