Information

The atomic structure of matter


Since ancient times the human being has been investigating to know more about the matter and to use this knowledge to live better. A very old curiosity is this:

Everything that exists is made of matter, but what is matter made of?

From the records we have to this day, humanity's earliest answers to the questions posed on the previous page were based on religion and mythology.

However, these explanations did not meet the practical needs of societies of the time. They did not provide, for example, the knowledge needed for metallurgy and later for steelmaking.

For thousands of years, humans have been able to mix some materials and thereby obtain materials other than animals. An example is bronze alloy - a mixture of copper and tin metals, which was produced 5000 years ago.


Bronze statuette of the Age of Metals, around 3000 BC.

With these advances, other questions arose:

  • Why do some types of material, when mixed, turn into another material?
  • How do these transformations occur?

To explain these and other practical questions, the need arose to know what matter is made of or the smallest particle of water, iron, and all that is.

The earliest writings that contain explanations of the structure of matter belong to the 5th century BC Greek philosophers.

About 2500 years ago, the Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus inquired about the fundamental structure of matter. They stated that water, then taken as a fundamental element of all that exists, was composed of indivisible particles named after atoms. The word atom means, in Greek, "indivisible."

Any kind of matter in the universe would consist of atoms. The various materials would have in their constitution different atoms, and these atoms would be in different proportions.

This idea of ‚Äč‚Äčatom - indivisible particle of matter - has been accepted without significant change for over 2,000 years.