Development of the Periodic Chart



In some ways the early third century B.C. in Greece was not unlike early 21st century A.D. in the United States.  The founding ideals of the nation (then city-state) of liberty, democracy, and national self sufficiency had lost their appeal in a world dominated by despotism, economic crisis, and social unrest.  (The United States' original zeal for liberty and freedom has similarly been replaced by entry fees, inspection points and prohibitions enforced by long enprisonments intended to protect individuals from terrorism and other dangers.  The government of the people, by the people, and for the people has largely been replaced by a government of the wealthy making laws for the benefit of international corporations.)  It was in such a similar time that Epicuros (born 341 B.C. in Samos) preached his gospel of salvation by common sense.  A century later (175 B.C.) the Epicurean gospel was considered dangerously subversive when preached within the walls of Rome which then ruled the Mediteranean world.  But another century later the Roman empire had many Epicureans.  In 55 B.C. the Roman citizen Titus Lucretius Carus wrote a long poem on The Nature of the Universe nominally to a Roman statesman, Gaius Memmius, but assuming a wider readership for the ideas of Epicurus.  Yet only a single battered copy of the poem survived to be rediscovered during the Renaissance.  Much of what we know of the Greek view of atoms comes from that book length poem.

Lucretius' poem suggests that
all knowledge is derived from the senses.
that things are exactly as the appear to be to our senses, or as they would appear if our senses were more acute.
material objects are perceived, therefore they exist.
nothing is ever created out of nothing, and nothing is ever annihilated.
matter exists in the form of invisible particles (atoms).  The atoms are indestructible.
besides matter the universe has vacuity (vacuum) and nothing else.
atoms are always on the move at speeds faster than light. Apparent stationary objects are optical illusions.
the properties of objects are due to the varieties of sizes and shapes of the atoms.
the number of atom shapes is finite, but the number of atoms of one shape is infinite.
visible objects are compounds of different kinds of atoms.
the universe in boundless and has no center.
the world had a beginning and will end.
plants first and animals later grew out of the earth (and not the seas), some were unfit and were eliminated, while other (imaginable kinds) could never have existed.
primitive man developed language, discovered fire and later metals, established property, formed government, and developed culture.
the mind is part of the body (lodged in the breast) but the spirit is diffused though the whole body.
mind controls spirit.
mind is a compound of wind, air, heat, and a mobile fourth element.
mind and spirit were born and will die.
visible images emanate from the surface of objects, travel very fast, are reflected by mirrors, and form vision when they impact the eye much like a touch.

Lucretius also wrote about the physical phenomena such as earthquakes, floods, magnets, and epidemics as well as discussed the various sensations and sex.

Lucretius' and Epicurus' claimed that observation was essential for knowldge, but it wasn't until modern times that compelling amounts of observations and measurements were found to make many of their ideas more scientific than philosophical.

If the idea of atoms was invented by Leucippos and Democritos before 400 B.C., why was the atomic theory not widely accepted until after 1800 A.D.?
What more is needed for a theory to be believed?
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Lucretius, The Nature of the Universe, R. E. Latham, translator, Penguin/Whitefriars Press, 1951

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