The work made Dalton famous—albeit in a low-key, English Quaker sort of way. In 1826, the French chemist P .J. Pelletier traveled to Manchester to meet the atomic hero. Pelletier expected to find him attached to some grand institution, so he was astounded to discover him teaching elementary arithmetic to boys in a small school on a back street. According to the scientific historian E. J. Holmyard, a confused Pelletier, upon beholding the great man, stammered:
“Est-ce que j’ai l’honneur de m’addresser à Monsieur Dalton?” for he could hardly believe his eyes that this was the chemist of European fame, teaching a boy his first four rules. “Yes,” said the matter-of-fact Quaker. “Wilt thou sit down whilst I put this lad right about his arithmetic?”
Although Dalton tried to avoid all honors, he was elected to the Royal Society against his wishes, showered with medals, and given a handsome government pension. When he died in 1844, forty thousand people viewed the coffin, and the funeral cortege stretched for two miles. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography is one of the longest, rivaled in length only by those of Darwin and Lyell among nineteenth-century men of science.