Joseph Priestley

Early Life
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Joseph Priestley as a scientist.

  • Joseph Priestley was born on March 13, 1733 in Fliedhead, England.
  • His father made clothes.
  • He was the oldest of the 6 children his mother gave birth to.
  • Many people thought he was really smart.
  • When his mother had her 5th child Priestley was sent to live with his grandpa.
  • In December of 1739, Joseph Priestley’s mom died giving birth to her 6th child forcing him to return home.
  • In 1749, age 16, Joseph Priestley caught tuberculosis but recovered shortly after.
  • He graduated from Daventry Academy and Batley Grammar School.
  • He was sent to live with his aunt, Sarah Priestley Keighley, until he turned 19.

  • J
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    Joseph Priestley's wife, Mary Wilkinson
    oseph Priestley did not flow the family business of making clothes instead he became a minister. Although this was not his lifelong

  • passion, science was.
  • In Joseph Priestley lifetime he taught, tutored, preached and was a scientist.
  • In 1773 he moves to Calne to work for William Petty.
  • In 1762 he marries Mary Wilkinson.
  • Joseph Priestley moved to Leeds in 1767 to work with photosynthesis and carbon dioxide.
  • The year of 1780, Priestley moved to Birmingham to work as a minister.
  • Joseph Priestley immigrates to the US in 1794.
  • He also taught (teacher) at Dissenting Academy.
  • He studied electricity and optics

The Discovery of Oxygen and Other Gases
• In 1733, Joseph Priestley got a Copley Medal from the Royal Society from his work with carbon dioxide.
• In 1774 Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen.
• Then he discovers carbon monoxide in 1799.
• Priestley discovered that oxygen is a mix of gases.
• He used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays on a compound called mercury oxide. Mercury oxide, also called mercuric oxide, has a red or orange color and is solid at room temperature and pressure.
• Heating this compound made a gas were a candle would burn more brightly and a mouse could live four times as long compared to the normal atmosphere. This gas was oxygen.
  • When he couldn't explain what he had found using his scientific knowledge, his discovery was used by Antoine Lavoisier
  • He also discovered laughing gas (nitrous oxide, a colorless gas with a sweetish odor, made by heating ammonium nitrate. It produces exhilaration or anesthesia when inhaled and is used as an painkiller and as an spray propellant)
  • Joseph Priestley was also the first to carbonate water and did the early work of electricity.
  • Joseph Priestley and Carl Wilhelm Scheele both discovered oxygen but Priestly is usually given credit.
  • However, both were able to make oxygen by heating mercuric oxide. Priestley called the gas 'dephlogisticated air' and Scheele called his 'fire air'.
  • To add to this, the name “oxygen” was created by Antoine Lavoisier who believed oxygen was necessary to form all acids which is incorrect.
  • He found a way to dissolve carbon dioxide in to water to form a fizzy drink. However Joseph Priestley didn’t take the discovery much further but decades later Mr. Schweppe took his idea and did something with it.
  • Joseph Priestley also discovered erasers.
How He Discovered Oxygen

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  • When priestly was young he was curious how spiders kept in a sealed container died then he tried to put mice in the container but they died as well.
  • A lit candle put into the container with the dead mouse immediately went out.
  • After he put a plant in the sealed container and found the mouse still lived.
  • Joseph Priestley thought the dead spiders and mice injured the air.
  • Than he put a mint plant in the container and thought it would die but to his surprise the plant survived
  • Then he put the candle in and the flame stayed for a while then burned out.
  • Later he said the ‘injured air’ had been ‘repaired by the vegetable creation.’
  • Without him knowing he made the first ever observation of photosynthesis.
  • 27 days later he relit the candle and it burned perfectly well in the air that beforehand would not support it.
  • The plant survived in air without oxygen.
  • The plant replaced the oxygen in the air.
  • The mouse did not suffocate because the plant replaced the oxygen or at least until the mouse used up all the oxygen
  • Then moved onto study of air
  • Focused the sun's rays on a sample of mercuric oxide and isolated a colorless ‘air’ that was given off.
  • Noticed mice were enlivened for some time before dying
  • He uses a 12-inch-wide glass called a burning lens and focused sunlight on a piece of reddish mercuric oxide in a reversed glass container. The gas released five or six times as much as common air.
  • It also caused a flame to burn strongly and kept a mouse thriving about four times as long as a regular air.
  • Priestley called his discovery "dephlogisticated air" thinking that the air supported burning so well because it had no phlogiston (carbon) in it, and could absorb the maximum amount during burning
  • Joseph Priestley’s hypothesis was that a plant had the ability to restore air to keep a breathing animal alive when a burning candle would remove the gas.
What is Oxygen?
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  • Oxygen is the air that humans breathe and is lower to the ground then ozone which is the air in the upper atmosphere.
  • Your body weight is two-thirds oxygen and in rivers, lakes, and oceans oxygen is nine tenths.
  • Oxygen will mix with and combined with any other element (oxidized).
  • All animals need oxygen for reparation. Although some people think plants do not need oxygen, plants do need a little amount to be able to perform photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process of a plant taking carbon dioxide, sunlight, and a tiny bit of oxygen to makes its own food (producer).
  • The name oxygen was created by Antoine Lavoisier who believed that oxygen was necessary to form all acids.
  • Oxygen makes up nearly 21% of the earth's atmosphere.
Fun Facts
  • Joseph Priestley was American, English, and British.
  • He taught himself Latin, Hebrew, Greek, French, Italian, German, and more Middle Eastern languages. He also learned mathematics and philosophy.
  • He lost his church to an angry mob that was mad about his outspoken view which made him try to resettle back in London.
  • Joseph Priestly meet Benjamin Franklin in London in 1765.
  • Priestley stands for a man of faith, man of science, man of politics.
  • Priestley was a part in the falling out between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
  • Priestley is the father of ecosystem science but instead of calling it ecosystem he called it “natural philosophy”.
  • Joseph Priestley died on February 6, 1804 in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.

Dear Mr. Franklin,

I am fully convinced that the air, which is made harmful by our breathing out, can be restored through plants. I have gathered up used air in a container and sealed this container hermetically. Seven days later, I placed a mouse into this container. In another container with the same used up air, I placed a plant. Seven days later I placed a mouse in the same container where the plant was. The mouse which was in the container without a plant died after 5 seconds. The mouse placed in the container with a plant, lived happily in the container for many minutes. Then I took the mouse out and placed it in the other container without any plants in. This poor mouse, which did so well in the container with the plant in, had to be taken out and resuscitated after spending as little as two seconds in the container without plants. This experiment shows us that plants can give the air its freshness back.
Joseph Priestley
Letter Joseph Priestley wrote to Benjamin Franklin about his discovery of oxygen and photosynthesis.
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This is Joseph Priestley's House.
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This is Joseph Priestley's lab.

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Conley, Kate A. Joseph Priestley and the Discovery of Oxygen. Hockessin: Mitchell Lane Publishers, c2006. Print.
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Research Update. Oxygen and Evolution of Complex Life." AccessScience. Research Update. Oxygen and Evolution of Complex Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.M
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