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Joseph PriestleyZoomA-Z

Biography

Born
13. März 1733 in Fieldhead (Leeds, UK)
Died
06. Februar 1804 in Northumberland (Pennsylvania)

Priestly is credited, along with Carl Scheele of Sweden, with the discovery of oxygen. A clergyman/chemist, Priestley called the gas he discovered, "dephlogisticated air." It was Antoine Lavoisier who named it oxygen. Our thorough understanding today of the chemical reactivity of oxygen comes from Antoine Lavoisier's systematic theory of combustion. Priestley was an industrious and clever investigator, not a sweeping theoretician with a guiding program of research. In the realm of theory, Priestley's expertise lay in his disputatious and prodigious command of theology, rather than in his chemical prowess. His adherence to the phlogiston theory was persistent. Joseph Priestley simplified experimental techniques for the preparation and collection of gases. His pneumatic trough of 1772 was an admirable apparatus. Gases soluble in water, previously difficult to collect, were collected successfully over mercury. In Wiltshire, England, on August 1, 1774 Priestley focused sunlight through a lens in order to heat a sample of mercuric oxide (red calx). The resulting gas supported the burning of a candle with a vigorous flame, was essentially insoluble in water, and accommodated a mouse under glass for some time.

A friend of Benjamin Franklin, Priestley experimented with electricity before turning his attention to chemistry in the early 1770s. His other discoveries include hydrochloric acid, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and sulfur dioxide.

Priestley was a minister in Leeds and later Birmingham. His nonconformist views and support for the French Revolution led to his home and chapel being burned in 1791. He moved to Pennsylvania three years later.

Chronology

1733Geboren am 13. März in Fieldhead (Leeds, UK)
Daventry Academy
Priestley was a minister in Leeds and later Birmingham
Schoolmaster and private tutor at Nantwich
Tutor in "polite" and classical languages at a new Dissenting Academy in Warrington
1804Gestorben am 06. Februar in Northumberland (Pennsylvania)