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Dalton, John – Philosophical Experiments – The advantages of experiment and observation over book learning



Type of Spiritual Experience


John wrote better explanations for children as teaching aids than he did in his scientific tracts, which tend to be wordy – unnecessarily so at times.  So we have taken some extracts from his Philosophical Experiments a book which had the objective of providing ‘young persons with the means of obtaining a knowledge of some of the most important phenomena of nature and the application of science to purposes of utility; and secondly to furnish them with an almost inexhaustible fund of amusement for winter evenings and other occasions when exercises in the open air are obliged to make way for indoor recreation.’


A description of the experience

John Dalton – Philosophical Experiments


……. it will be seen, that the same great laws which the Creator has established are exemplified as clearly in the most simple experiments, as they are in those grand phenomena of nature that must ever excite the admiration and wonder of every thoughtful observer : and the young student, with a few old glasses for apparatus, and a few pennyworths of chemicals for material, may make himself familiar with the works of the Creator, that, in former times, confounded the profound philosophers.

Surely, such pleasure is desirable ? It is not merely a gratification of curiosity, but a rational way of exercising those faculties which have been given to us to improve.

A person who so employs his time will have the pleasure of knowing, that he is not merely providing himself with a means of endless amusement, but storing his mind with information of a valuable kind.

In describing the different chemical preparations that are to be used in the experiments, we have employed the terms by which they are known to chemists, and added, in a parenthesis, the popular names; thus, "Sulphuric acid (oil of vitriol.") All the chemicals may be obtained at an operative chemist's, by asking for them in the former names; and we again advise those, who perform the experiments only to purchase a small quantity, as a few pennyworths of most of the substances will be quite sufficient.

The source of the experience

Dalton, John

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Home schooling