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History of the Atom Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 How Everything Started
  • 0:35 What Is Matter?
  • 1:18 Behavior of Atoms
  • 1:46 The Center
  • 2:20 Atomic Energy in the Cloud
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patrick Zedrow

Patrick has taught intermediate science, language arts, and technology. He has a master's degree in educational technology.

This lesson focuses on how ideas about atoms - the smallest particle you can even imagine - have changed based on new evidence scientists have discovered. Let's learn more about the history of atoms.

How Everything Started

Have you ever wondered what everything around us is made of? Democritus did. He was a Greek philosopher who lived from 460 to 370 BCE. He wondered how small he could cut an object until he couldn't cut it any more. When he finally cut an object to such a tiny piece, he named it atomos, which means ''that which cannot be broken into smaller pieces.'' Democritus also thought that these little particles are always moving, some faster than others. He knew there was still so much more to understand about the objects we see every day.

What Is Matter?

Over two thousand years later, in the 1700s, scientists discovered that everything around us is made of matter. Matter is the 'stuff' that makes up the objects that we see every day, and it can appear in several different forms (solid, liquid, gas).

All matter is made of atoms. Atoms are the smallest, most unbreakable, most basic building blocks of matter. At first, scientists stated that atoms that make up the same object are exactly like each other, like identical twins. However, atoms can also be combined with other types of atoms to make a new solid, liquid, or gas. For example, when you see fizzing, burning, color changing, or a new smell, that is simply atoms rearranging each other to form a new substance.

Behavior of Atoms

In the late 1800s, it was still difficult to be certain about how atoms behave because advanced technology was still a long way away. Nevertheless, scientists conducted tests using electricity. They discovered that an electrical charge could be shifted into different directions simply by placing certain metals nearby. This proved that atoms are attracted to some materials but resist others. This new discovery led to many new inventions and modern breakthroughs.

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