Democritus’s theory of atoms


Until now we have covered some of the basics about atoms. However, what do we know about its past? When are atoms mentioned for the first time?

To find out some answers, we need to go back 400.BCE. That is the period in which, Greek philosopher Democritus was living. Democritus was born around 460.BCE in Abdera, a town in north Greece. His teacher was Leucippus. It is believed that he is the founder of philosophy about atoms, atomism, however, some sources are denying that Leucippus was even existing.

What we do know, is that Democritus came to conclusion that if we took a rock and cut it on half, and then cut it again on half, and then again that piece on half, and then cut it again and again and again… In one moment we would come to such a little piece which we wouldn’t be able to cut or separate, but that piece would still posses same characteristics of that big stone from the beginning. From here we have a word ‘atoms’, it is coming from Greek word ‘Atomos’ which means ‘indivisible’ or ‘uncutable’.

Democritus didn’t say this is the case just with the rock, but for everything else. Silver, human body, gold and etc. He believed that all matter is made of those tiny atoms, and those atoms don’t posses any properties, so, all the atoms are equal and only difference is in their shape, size, the way the arrange themselves and how do they position themselves. He was saying that atoms cannot have any properties like for example: hot, cold, red color, sound, smell…. All this is actually only our perception and experience. We can hear a sound in ourselves and we can see red color in ourselves. So, Democritus believed that when those external atoms get in contact with atoms that are inside our bodies, then we can feel some sensation or hear some sound.

How are atoms binding together?

Democritus believed that there are atoms with hooks and atoms with holes. Logically, one on the another could build themselves.

Matter is made of atoms, and Universe is made of atoms and voids. Those voids are like medium for atoms so that atoms could move through them and make a connections with other atoms and by doing this, they can create the matter.

Democritus believed that in the beginning of Universe, there was big void and inside were all the atoms, and it was very dense. By freeing those atoms, matter started to form and also many planets, stars and worlds begin to form.

Aristotle, who was then a very powerful and influential figure in Greece, rejected Democritus’s theory. Democritus was misunderstood and people where laughing at him and mocking him. However, modern science has proved that Democritus’s theory was no so far from the truth.

Today we can say that Democritus was one of the founders of theory about atoms.

Drawing of Democritus

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