Human atom

Human atom
Artistic rendition of a human atom, an overlay of the atomic symbol over an X-ray style view of a human, with a light glow behind, representative of energy.
In human chemistry, the human atom is a metaphor-like term used to define the human being as the atomic unit in sociology or as a bound state of atoms acting like a single reactive particle.

In 1813, English chemist Humphry Davy described man as a point atom. [1] The 1898 article “the Unit of Consideration in Sociology” by American sociologist Samuel Lindsay resulted in follow-up discussions on society composed of human atoms. [2] In discussion on Lindsay’s societal unit, American sociologist Albion Small commented that: [3]

“General chemistry is sometimes defined as ‘the science of atoms and their behavior.’ The same chemists who use this definition acknowledge that they have never discovered the hypothetical ‘free atom.’ The only close likeness in this respect that I can discover between general sociology and general chemistry or biology is in the fact that we must use the conception of human individuals, although we can find no such object in reality as the free individual.

If we should describe sociology as ‘the science of human individuals and their behavior’ we should be in verbal uniformity with one way of defining chemistry; but I do not see any profit from that fact in the shape of more knowledge about society. Unless we are willing however, to take as our ultimate concept ‘the human atom,’ ‘the individual,’ ‘the social man,’ or whatever we may choose to name the irreducible element in societary combinations, I see nothing but arbitrariness in the plan of adopting a ‘unit of inquiry.’ Is it not a purely gratuitous assumption that at present sociology needs or can use a unit of inquiry in the sense to which Professor Lindsay seems most to incline?”
atom and man

atom man
Conceptual idea of a human atom, the loose idea that people are like atoms as compared with the billion plus population of humanity or as compared to the universe.

In 1956, German-American psychologist Erich Fromm defined people as human atoms as such: [4]

“Contemporary society preaches the ideal of unindividualized equality because it needs human atoms, each one the same, to make them function in mass aggregation, smoothly, without friction; all obeying the same commands, yet everybody being convinced they he is following his own desires.”

Recent decades, to note, have turned towards the more chemically-correct view of people as 26-element "human molecules", over that of the simplified human atom view.

See also
Human particle
Social atom
Human element
Human chemical
Human atomism

1. Levere, Trevor, H. (1971). Affinity and Matter – Elements of Chemical Philosophy 1800-1865. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.
2. Lindsay, Samuel McCune. (1898). “The Unit of Investigation or of Consideration in Sociology”, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (pgs. 214-), Vol. 12, Sep.
3. Small, Albion W. (1899) “Briefer Communications: A ‘Unit’ in Sociology.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (pgs. 81-229; esp. pg. 83: “human atom”), Vol. 13.
4. Fromm, Erich. (1954). The Art of Loving (human atom, pg. 15). Harper Perennial.

Further reading
● Bailey, Alice. (1922). The Consciousness of the Atom (human atom, 26+ pgs). Forgotten Books.
● Purcker, G. De. (1932). “The Life and Adventures of a Human Atom”, Theosophical Path Magazine, March, pgs. 187-202.
● Trust, Josephine C. (1946). Human Atoms Power Harnessed Prolongs Life. Publisher.

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