Thursday, November 05, 2009

Joseph Priestly

Have you ever heard of Joseph Priestly (1733-1804)? A world famous scientist/philosopher/educator/religious leader who moved to the United States in 1791 and lived here for the rest of his life?

As a scientist he did crucial experiments that illuminated the nature of gases, identifying a number including oxygen and providing data critical to the development of chemistry. He also identified that plants are critical to the production of gases in the atmosphere necessary for animal life. He also was important in the development of electricity and optics, and his book on the history of the development of the physics of electricity was a best seller in use for a century.

His book on grammar was so influential that he is seen as one of the great grammarians of the English language.

He is listed as one of the 100 most important people in history in the development of education.

He was one of the key leaders in the creation of the Unitarian religion. Jefferson found Priestly to be the most important influences in his own religious belief, and one can assume that through Jefferson Priestly had a profound influence on American religious freedom.

As a philosopher, Priestly is credited with strongly influencing the development of utilitarianism.

As a political philosopher he was an advisor to a key statesman of Great Britain, and so strongly in support of the revolutions in the United States and France that he was forced to leave England.

Truly a man of The Enlightenment!

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