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Joseph Priestley Biography

Joseph Priestley Biography


Joseph Priestley  (24 March 1733 – 6 February 1804) was an 18th-century English Separatist theologian, natural philosopher, chemist, innovative grammarian, multi-subject educator, and liberal political theorist who published over 150 works. He has historically been credited with the discovery of oxygen,having isolated it in its gaseous state, although Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Antoine Lavoisier also have strong claims to the discovery.
Early Life and Education
Born at Birstall Fieldhead, England, on 13 March in 1733, Joseph Priestley proved to be a very intelligent child from an early age. He learned mathematics, logic, metaphysics and natural philosophy. Priestley also learnt more than six different languages including Latin, Hebrew and Greek. Priestley lived with his grandfather for some time but returned home when his mother passed away. After her death, his father remarried and sent him to live with a wealthy but childless uncle and aunt. Later for higher studies, he went to the Dissenting Academy at Daventry, in Northamptonshire. Dissenters, who got the name as they refused to conform to the Church of England, were not allowed to attend regular English universities. Despite this, Priestley received an excellent education in several subjects such as philosophy, literature, as well as science.


Contributions and Achievements
Joseph Priestley is highly regarded for his work with the chemistry of gases. As a friend of Benjamin Franklin, Priestley contacted him regarding his theories of electricity. He later 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. He also invented soda water.
Priestley wrote several theological, philosophical and political essays. He made the English press and government furious with his theories regarding “rational Christianity” and “Laissez-Faire Economics”. Priestley, along with his family, narrowly escaped hundreds of raging protesters who attacked their home in 1791.
Later Life and Death
Joseph Priestley fled to the United States in 1794. He died in Northumberland, Pennsylvania on Feb 6, 1804, aged 70. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.


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