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.On the night of the second anniversary of the storming ofBastille (a key event of the French Revolution), July 14, 1791, sev-eral friends and Priestley planned to meet at a local inn for dinner.For some reason, Priestley ended up staying home and playingbackgammon with his wife that evening.Suddenly they heard nois-es outside.A neighbor was rushing to tell them that the inn hadbeen stormed by a  Church-and-King mob.He feared thatPriestley was the real target, so Priestley s family immediately fledto a friend s house, and then Joseph snuck out of town to London. Joseph Priestley 15By the end of that night, the mob had destroyed his house, his lab-oratory, and his church.The Priestleys were forced to move again.Joseph found a jobpreaching at Gravel Pit Meeting in Hackney, but their life was notcomfortable.Priestley had defended the rights of Americans tobreak away from Britain, he sympathized with the French revolu-tionaries, and he had consistently chipped away at the heart of thenation s prescribed religion.His own religious views were unpopu-lar, and he had preached them too loudly for too long.Priestley wasshunned by his former Royal Society colleagues, and he and his wifeno longer felt welcome in their motherland.They began to thinkthey might be happier in the United States, where their three sonshad moved a few years earlier.Immigration to AmericaJoseph and Mary Priestley set sail for America in April of 1794.Though practically chased out of England, the United States warm-ly greeted Priestley.They stayed in New York for a few weeks andthen moved on to Philadelphia.Priestley had become a member ofthe American Philosophical Society (founded by Ben Franklin) andwanted to visit some of the members there, though his old friendand confidante, Ben Franklin, had died in 1790.The Priestleysmoved in with their son Joseph until their own house was complete.A laboratory was set up after the surprise arrival of several pieces ofequipment sent from Josiah Wedgwood and others from England.One and one-half years after their arrival, their youngest son,Henry, died of pneumonia.Nine months later, Mary died.Though most of his time was spent puttering in his lab, writingreligious texts, and corresponding with colleagues includingThomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and John Adams, Priestley con-tinued to keep up with new developments in chemistry.He hopedto determine the amount of phlogiston in various metals.In 1799he discovered yet another new gas, carbon monoxide, by heatingcoal in a small amount of air.Though poisonous, this gas has manyindustrial uses.He continued to passionately defend the phlogistontheory despite the fact that it had been demolished, ironically, as a 16 Chemistryresult of his own discovery.His last scientific paper was one entitled The Doctrine of Phlogiston Established, which of course, it wasnot.Years before, Lavoisier had finally vindicated Priestley for hisdiscovery of oxygen, but from that discovery Lavoisier had givenbirth to a new revolution in chemistry, one that had no place forphlogiston.Priestley s health began to weaken in 1801.By 1803, he wasmostly bedridden.On February 6, 1804, he died with his son by hisside, in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.If science is the pursuit of truth, then Priestley was a true sci-entist.To recognize his distinguished services to chemistry, theAmerican Chemical Society established the Priestley Medal in1922, honoring the father of pneumatic (gas) chemistry and thediscoverer of oxygen.Though Priestley s dogged determination tostand by the phlogiston theory has led many to believe he was sim-ply a stubborn old man who refused to accept more modern ideas,the reason for his sticking to phlogiston was really more theolog-ical than scientific.His approach in all endeavors was reduction-ist, meaning he believed everything could be broken down andexplained by a few simple elements and rules [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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