Vortex atom

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(Chem.) a hypothetical ring-shaped mass of elementary matter in continuous vortical motion. It was conveniently regarded in certain early mathematical models as the typical form and structure of the chemical atom, but is no longer considered a useful model, having been superseded by quantum mechanics.

See also: Vortex

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The concept of the vortex atom was based on the presumed existence of the ether and implied the chimerical claim that matter and ether consist principally of the same substance and that their only difference is the substance's state of motion.
Indeed the vortex atom became much more significant in popular understanding than in the sciences themselves, since the model didn't solve any of the problems with which physicists were struggling at the time; instead it supported a hypothesis--of the existence of the ether--that, frustratingly, could never be proved.
Kelvin opens the article with the assertions "that Helmholtz's rings are the only true atoms" and "all bodies are composed of vortex atoms in a perfect homogeneous liquid" (Thomson 1-2), which is how the ether was conceived at the time.