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Joseph Priestley
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Scientist
    (March 13, 1733-February 6, 1804)
    Born in Birstall, England, United Kingdom
    Natural philosopher, clergyman and political theorist
    With Antoine Lavoisier and Wilhelm Scheele, independently discovered oxygen
    Wrote the scientific works 'The History and Present State of Electricity' (1767) and 'Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air' (1774-77)
    Wrote the religious and political works 'Essay on the First Principles of Government' (1768), 'Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion' (1772-74), 'Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit' (1777), 'Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever' (1780), 'A History of the Corruptions of Christianity' (1782) and 'Lectures on History and General Policy' (1788)
    An early attempt to open a school failed when parents told him they would not send their children because of his unorthodox religious beliefs.
    Despite discovering the oxygen responsible for combustion, he defended the theory that things burned by releasing 'phlogiston.'
    He declared that the French Revolution was a sign of the end of the world and that the second coming of Christ would happen within twenty years.
    He was accused of treason against England over his support for the French Revolution.
    He wrote the successful textbook 'Rudiments of English Grammar.' (1761)
    He argued for separation of church and state.
    His church and home were burned down by a mob (July 14, 1791).
    After settling in the US, he wrote to Thomas Jefferson, 'It is only now that I can say I see nothing to fear from the hand of power.'
    The American Chemical Society named its highest award the Priestley Medal.

Credit: C. Fishel


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