“When we say there is a GOD, we mean that there is an intelligent designing cause of what we see in the world around us, and a being who was himself uncaused.”
Joseph Priestley is credited with discovering oxygen, along with several other gases. Priestley wrote around 150 works on various subjects, including grammar, science, and history. In 1758, Priestley led a congregation and even opened a school in which he taught natural philosophy and science. Priestley even wrote his own book on grammar for his students. Priestley continuously combined his faith with his scientific work and believed that the two should be in close relation with each other.
Priestley was very interested in electricity, and in 1767, he published his own book, “The History and Present State of Electricity.” Priestley extensively researched the history of electricity and performed many practical experiments, which led to many discoveries. His writing became crucial for the historical and present knowledge of electricity for about a century.
In experiments with gases, Priestley discovered ten new gases including: nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydrogen chloride, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, silicon tetrafluoride, nitrogen, oxygen, and a gas later identified as carbon monoxide.
Priestley continued experiments with gases and air, and he believed that he discovered a new air. Priestley discovered that oxygen is in the atmosphere and that it highly influences situations involving combustion and respiration. This discovery led to revolutionary knowledge in chemistry.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Priestley was a pastor and devout Christian who consistently brought his faith into his work. Priestley grew up desiring to be a Christian minister, and he later pastored a church along with being a scientist. Priestley attended schools that taught him Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which aided in his study of the Bible. In his study of theology in school, Priestley held a strong belief in the rational analysis of the natural world and the Bible.
In “Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion,” Priestley recorded his theories on religious instruction and highly believed in religious truths that could be expressed in nature. Although his theories caused some controversy at the time, Priestley’s writing encouraged a working relationship between science and religion. In this book, Priestley stated, “When we say there is a GOD, we mean that there is an intelligent designing cause of what we see in the world around us, and a being who was himself uncaused.”
The laboratory at Lord Shelburne's estate, Bowood House, in which Priestley discovered oxygen
Priestley's "electrical machine"
Priestley's "electrical machine for amateur experimentalists", illustrated in the first edition of his Familiar Introduction to the Study of Electricity (1768)
Artist: Ellen Sharples
A portrait of Priestley commissioned by his publisher and close friend Joseph Johnson from Henry Fuseli (c. 1783)