The Periodic System of the Elements and Prout’s Hypothesis

Use and Interpretation by Josef Loschmidt
  • Michael Jenner


This is a short presentation of Loschmidt’s thoughts on matter and its constitution. They concerned fundamental questions: Whether there is continuity or if there are discrete particles with a vacuum between them; whether “atoms” exist as the smallest and ultimate (indivisible) particles of matter, or if there are subatomic or even weightless “particles”.


Periodic System Atomic Weight Original Text Austrian Academy Handwritten Note 
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References and Notes

  1. 1.
    The unpublished notes and drafts evaluated here are in the Archives of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and in a collection of Loschmidt’s papers assembled by Dr.A. Bader. I want to thank Dr. Hannelore Sexl, Austrian Academy of Sciences, and Dr.R. Rosner, who is custodian for Dr. Baders collection, for putting copies of the unpublished notes and drafts at my disposal. Professor T. Schönfeld suggested that I study these papers. When he handed them to me with the words “Have a look at that, maybe you can make something out of it,” I was not aware that I held in my hands an undiscovered treasure, providing much insight into Loschmidt’s ideas on the structure of matter.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Anonymous (W. Prout.), On the relation between the specific bodies in their gaseous state and the weights of their atoms, Ann. Philosophy 6, 321 (1815).Google Scholar
  3. 3.*
    D.I. Mendelejeff, Die periodische Gesetzmäßigkeit der Elemente, in German: Ann.Chem.Pharm., Suppl. VIII, 206 (1870/72).Google Scholar
  4. 4.*
    D.I. Mendelejeff, The periodic law of the chemical elements (Faraday Lecture, June 4th, 1889), J.Chem.Soc. Transactions 55, 645 (1889).Google Scholar
  5. 5.*
    L.Meyer, Grundzüge der Theoretischen Chemie, Leipzig 1890, p.49.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    e.g.:J.S.Stas, Recherches sur le rapports réciproques des poids atomiques, Éxtrait des Bulletins de l’Académie royale de Belgique, 2.série, tomeX, numéro 8; Bruxelles (1860).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    e.g.: M. von Pettenkofer, Ann.Chem.Pharm., 105, 187 (1858).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    J. Dumas, On the equivalent-weights of single bodies, Compt.rend. 45, 709 (1858).Google Scholar
  9. 9.*
    J. Loschmidt, Zur Constitution des Aethers, Verlag Gerold, Wien 1862, p.4.Google Scholar
  10. 10.*
    J. Loschmidt, Zur Grösse der Luftmolecüle, Sitzungs.Ber.Kais.Akad.Wiss.Wien, Math.Naturwiss.Classe, 52, 395 (1865).Google Scholar
  11. 11.*
    J. Loschmidt, Schwingungszahlen einer elastischen Hohlkugel, Sitzungs.Ber.Kais.Akad.Wiss.Wien, Math. Naturwiss.Classe, 93, 434 (1887).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    In his earlier publication “Chemische Studien I” (1861) Loschmidt already spoke about a “spherical orbit of atomic action” without using the term “aether.”.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    As formulated in another hand-written undated note: “Agenda in Physik” (about monism or dualism of electricity).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    These notes on the aether also contain thoughts about gravitation, electricity, magnetism and galvanism — a more detailed discussion of this theory of aether should be made in a separate paper. Here I shall only discuss his views on the structure of matter.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  20. 20.*
    W. Heisenberg, Der Teil und das Ganze, Piper Verlag, München 1969, p.89.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    See next section (Original Texts).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    L. Boltzmann, Zur Erinnerung an Josef Loschmidt (1895), Populäre Schriften, Leipzig 1905.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Jenner
    • 1
  1. 1.ViennaAustria

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