Joseph Priestley

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Joseph Priestley

Contributions To SciencePriestley is noted for his groundbreaking contributions to experimental chemistry, electricity and the chemistry of gases, and his works regarding liberal political and religious thought.

Joseph PriestleyJoseph Priestley was an English scientist, philosopher, theologian, clergyman, educator, and Liberal political theorist who published over 150 works.

Date of BirthJoseph Priestley was born March 24, 1733 in Birstall Fieldhead, England. He was born into a family of moderately succesful wool-cloth makers in the Calvanist stronghold.

Joseph Priestley

Research/DiscoveryPriestley turned his attention to the preparation and study of other gases. His greatest discovery came in 1774, when he prepared oxygen by using a burning glass and solar heat to heat red oxide of mercury in a vaccum and collected the evolved gas over mercury. He called the new gas "dephlogisticated air". He realized that this gas must be the active component in the atmosphere and that the concept of air being a single substance was inncorrect. He could now identify oxygen as the agent involved in the animal-plant meatbolic cycle.

EducationPriestley entered the Dissenting Academy at Daventry, Northamptonshire in 1752. He received an excellent education in philosophy, science, languages, and literture.He was also educated to be a minister in the churches that dissented form the Church of England and spent most of his employed life as a preacher or teacher. He gradually came to be a Unitarian.

DiscoveriesPriestley is highly regarded for his work with the chemistry of gases. He experimented with distinguishing various types of air. Before him, scientists thought that the air on Earth consisted of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Priestley brought 10 more gases to this list, such as nitrogen, hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and oxygen.

Moving To AmericaPriestley wrote several theological, philosophical and political essays. He made the English press and government furious with his theories. In 1791 a mob destroyed his home and laboratory in Birmingham. This event and other troubles led him to decide to emigrate to America. Priestley and his family settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he lived his death in 1804.

Research/DiscoveryIn 1767 Priestley moved to Leeds, where he lived near a brewery. He became interested in the gases evolved and soon discovered that carbon dioxide was being formed. He began preparing this gas at home for study and found that it could be obsorbed by water. This discovery of "soda water" brought him the Royal Society's Copley Medal.

First Work PublishedPriestly moved around the country alot preaching and teaching. On a trip to London, Priestley met Benjamin Franklin who interested him in electricty. This led to frutiful experimentation and his History and Present State of Electricity.

FamilyIn 1762 Priestley was ordained a minister and married Mary later that same year. In 1763 they had a daughter named Sarah. After moving to Leeds in 1767, two sons were born to the Priestleys. Joseph junior in 1768, and William 3 years later.


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