As I can’t find anywhere in Lancashire beginning with J, I’m going to look at two people with the same name, John Dalton.
In Manchester’s city centre, there is a street called John Dalton Street. It’s a typical
street with a mixture of Victorian and modern buildings, and a variety of shops
and business premises including banks, lawyers’ offices, and sandwich bars.
It’s named after – fairly obviously – John Dalton. He was
not a Manchester native but was born in Cumbria in 1766. As a Quaker, he was
barred from attending a University, but in 1793 he became a teacher of
mathematics and philosophy at the ‘New College’ in Manchester, which was a
He is known for his research into colour blindness (which is sometimes referred to as Daltonism), but
is probably best known for his pioneering work in atomic theory. He was the
first scientist to explain the behaviour of atoms in terms of weight and in
1803 created the first chart of atomic weights. He also uncovered the fact that
atoms couldn’t be created or destroyed. Although some of his theories have now
been disproved, his innovatory work was of immense importance for the future of
atomic science. It’s been said that the 20th century splitting of the atom
would probably not have been accomplished without Dalton’s foundation of
knowledge about the atom. The same thing might also be said about this week's discovery of the Higgs Boson.
John Dalton died in 1844, just three years after another
John Dalton was born.
This one was my great-grandfather, both in 1841. Like the ‘famous’
John Dalton, he was the son of a weaver, and he was born in Dukinfield, a small
town to the east of Manchester. Unlike the other John Dalton, however, he
probably didn’t have much schooling. By the time he was about 12, he was
working in the local weaving mill. When he married Sarah Wilde in 1863, he was
a mechanic, and later became an ‘Overlooker’ (a kind of supervisor).
John and Sarah had 4 children between 1867 and 1875,
including my grandmother, Catalina, the youngest of the four. Sarah died in
1879, aged only 36, of broncho-pneumonia, and the following year, the third
child of the family, also called Sarah, died aged 8. This photo therefore must
have been taken in late 1879 or early 1880. My grandmother is the small child
with the large handbag!
John remarried in 1882 to Mary Fielding, but this marriage
seems not to have lasted, as by 1891 he was living with my grandmother (prior
to her marriage in 1893), while Mary was living elsewhere in the town with several
of her (adult) children.
In 1901 John was living alone, and he died in 1911,
just a year before my father was born.
Same name – but two totally different lives.