Payal, a 12 year old female from Buffalo asks on December 20, 2004,How do you determine the proportion of the various gases in the air?
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Chemistry professor Carmen Giunta at LeMoine College in Syracuse, NY has posted the 1802 paper in which John Dalton explains how he did it.
Basically, within closed systems, he tried different chemical reactions each designed to selectively use up a suspected component of air, and then he noted how much the total air pressure changed. That way he could tell the relative proportion of each major component.
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