Joseph Priestley – Best Guide in 2023

Joseph Priestley (born March 13, 1733, in Birstall Fieldhead, a locality close to Leeds, Yorkshire [now West Yorkshire], England; died in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, U. S. A. English author (born February 6, 1804). S.) was an English cleric, political theorist, and physical scientist who made contributions to experimental chemistry as well as liberal political and religious thought. His contributions to the chemistry of gases have earned him the most notoriety.

Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley

Young Age

Priestley was born into a comparatively well-off family of wool fabric makers in the Calvinist stronghold of West Riding, Yorkshire. He enrolled in Daventry, Northamptonshire’s Dissenting Academy in 1752. Due to their refusal to adhere to the Church of England, dissenters were known as such and were not permitted to enroll in English universities under the Act of Uniformity (1662). Prior to adopting a religious “furious freethinker” mindset, Priestley attained a superb education at Daventry in philosophy, science, languages, and literature. He rejected the original sin and atonement doctrines of the Calvinists in favor of a logical Unitarianism that argued against the Trinity and for man’s perfectibility.

Engage in Electrical Work

Priestley was inspired to write The History and Present State of Electricity, with Original Experiments, which was published in 1767, after meeting the American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin in 1765. The accumulation of “new facts” that anyone could discover was shown in this essay by Priestley to be more significant for the development of science than the theoretical insights of a small group of exceptionally gifted people. Priestley made this point using historical examples. Priestley’s preference for “facts” over “hypotheses” in scientific research was in line with his Dissenting notion that any form of dogma or prejudice prevented objective inquiry and good judgment.

Chemical composition of gases

When Priestley returned to his position as a minister at Leeds’ Mill Hill Chapel in 1767, he immediately began carrying out extensive experimental chemistry research. Between 1772 and 1790, he disseminated his research on gases, or “airs,” as they were called at the time, in six volumes of Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air and more than a dozen articles in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Air, carbon dioxide (fixed air), and hydrogen (flammable air), which were previously categorized by British pneumatic chemists as three distinct types of gases. According to Priestley’s phlogiston theory, combustible substances released phlogiston during combustion, which is an immaterial “principle of inflammability.”. A description of these gases’ chemistry was provided in this theory.

Oxygen Discovery

The basis for Priestley’s enduring reputation in science was the discovery he made on August 1st, 1774, when he heated red mercuric oxide to produce an inert gas. According to the theory that common air became saturated with phlogiston once it could no longer support combustion and life, he referred to it as “dephlogisticated air.”. He discovered that a candle would burn and that a mouse would thrive in this gas. Priestley was not yet certain that he had discovered a “new species of air,” though. The following October, he traveled through Belgium, Holland, Germany, and France with Shelburne, his patron. He explained to French chemist Antoine Lavoisier how he made the new “air” while in Paris. The interaction between these two scientists was crucial for the advancement of chemistry. Lavoisier conducted extensive research between 1775 and 1780 as a result of immediately reproducing Priestley’s experiments. From this research, he was able to identify oxygen as the “active” principle in the atmosphere and deduce its basic properties, which included its role in respiration and combustion. Chemistry was revolutionized by Lavoisier’s assertions regarding the activity of oxygen.

Politics, Theology, and Teaching

Science had a big part to play in Priestley’s “Rational Christianity.”. He rejected the “gloomy” Calvinist doctrines of the natural depravity of man and the impenetrable will of a vengeful God, as he stated in Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion (1772-1744). David Hartley, a liberal Anglican psychologist, developed the “doctrine of association of ideas,” which Priestley used to support his claim that humanity’s perfectibility was the inevitable outcome of a growing understanding of man’s position in a deterministic system of goodness. “. Priestley argued that a logical reading of the Bible supported the ideologies of materialism, determinism, and Socinianism (Unitarianism) in An History of the Corruptions of Christianity (1782). He insisted that Jesus Christ was only a human being who opposed the concept of an immortal soul in favor of the resurrection of the body.

Upheaval and Exile

Priestley, along with his friend and fellow moral philosopher Richard Price, supported the American and French Revolutions, which the English media and government deemed “seditious.”. On July 14, 1791, the “Church-and-King mob” destroyed Priestley’s house and lab. Priestley and his family withdrew to the security of Price’s church in the nearby London neighborhood of Hackney. Priestley defended his anti-British government opinions in Letters to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (1791) before beginning to teach at New College, Oxford.

Priestley’s defense was met with indifference as the reaction to the French Revolution in England became more virulent. He escaped to America in 1794 and discovered a “relatively tolerable” form of government there. The Republican response to the Federalists included Letters to the Inhabitants of Northumberland (1799), his most well-known piece in the nation. When Priestley passed away in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, lamented and admired him.

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