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The Age of Science

 Joseph Priestly  (1733–1804)

Joseph Priestly was born at Fieldhead near Birstall, West Yorkshire. He was the oldest of the six children born to Mary Swift and Jonas Priestly.
As a baby, Priestly was sent to live with his grandfather; his mother died five years later, so he returned home. In 1741, Priestly moved in with his rich aunt and uncle.
Because Priestly was gifted, his aunt sought the best education for the boy, with the intention of steering him towards a life in the ministry.

His intention was to become a minister of the church after being brought up in the Calvinistic traditions and teachings, however he nearly died after seemingly contracting Tuberculosis and after that experience he abandoned that aim.


Priestly was taught Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

After he recovered from the Tuberculosis, Priestly was left with a stutter which deterred him from becoming a full time minister.

His theology and politics shifted and theologically he became a Rational Dissenter, these people emphasized the rational analysis of the natural world and the Bible.


He went on further to study chemistry and Science, adapting easily with his brilliant mind discovering new ideas often.
In August 1774 he isolated an "air" that appeared to be completely new, but he did not have an opportunity to pursue the matter because he was about to tour Europe. While in Paris, however, Priestly managed to replicate the experiment for others, including French chemist Antoine Lavoisier. After returning to Britain in January 1775, he continued his experiments and discovered "vitriolic acid air" (sulphur dioxide, SO2). 142
In March he wrote to several people regarding the new "air" that he had discovered in August. One of these letters was read aloud to the Royal Society, and a paper outlining the discovery, titled "An Account of further Discoveries in Air", was published in the Society's journal Philosophical Transactions. Priestly named the new substance "dephlogisticated air". He first tested it on mice, who surprised him by surviving quite a while entrapped with the air, and then on himself, writing that it was:


"Five or six times better than common air for the purpose of respiration, inflammation, and, I believe, every other use of common atmospherical air".

He had discovered oxygen (O2). 143

Carl Scheele of Sweden is also said to have discovered it at the same time. Priestly also described the isolation and identification of other gases such as ammonia, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and nitrogen dioxide.
Priestly was a French revolutionary sympathiser which did not go down well in English society, after having his house attacked and being constantly hounded by the anti-revolutionaries immigrated to the United States in 1794 where he was welcomed with open arms. He died some 10 years later.

Joseph Black 1728-1799

Joseph Black was born in Bordeaux, France in 1728. His father was a wine merchant from Belfast and his mother was Scottish. At the age of 18 he attended Medical school at Glasgow University. He furthered his medical studies at Edinburgh. This is where his most famous experiments took place. His experiments helped to pave a way for future scientists.
Joseph Black can be described as the first of the scientific chemists, as distinguished from medical chemists.

During 1752-1753 Black occupied himself with researching for a solvent for urinary calculi. He discovered by accident the difference between limestone and quicklime and this was produced by the expulsion of “fixed air” (discovered by Van Helmont)
Black discovered in 1762 the principle of latent heat, which was described in a paper to the philosophical club of Glasgow, but was not published till it appeared in Blacks
“Lectures” edited by Kobison, in 1803.
The practical importance of Blacks discovery was at once recognised by James Watt through whose genius the use of latent heat was transformed into useful mechanical work in the invention of the steam engine.  

In 1782 the first real step to the science of anaesthesia was taken when Joseph Black became the first person to isolate carbon dioxide into its pure state and at the time he called it fixed air, as it could combine with a solid, this was a small step in terms of anaesthetic properties but a giant step in the breakthrough for science as it led to modern chemistry and eventually atomic research.
Black during his lifetime suffered from breathing problems, and rheumatic problems in later life. He was known to be a vegetarian in later life and also suffered from Vit D deficiency.
He improved when he moved out of the city into the country. He died, in Edinburgh, on 6 December 1799, and is buried in Greyfriars churchyard.
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Quote 57

Every man, when he comes to be sensible of his natural rights, and to feel his own importance, will consider himself as fully equal to any other person whatsoever

 

 

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