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Joseph Priestley

A picture of Joseph Priestley

About Joseph Priestley

Priestley, Rev. Joseph (1733-1804)
Dissenting Minister, Scientist, Author, Republican

He was born at Birstall near Leeds 13th March 1733. After four years at a Dissenting Academy at Daventry, in 1755 he became Presbyterian Minister at Needham Market. In 1758 he moved to Nantwich, and in 1761 became a tutor at the Warrington Academy. He met, and became a correspondent with Benjamin Franklin, and in 1766 he was Elected F.R.S. In 1767 he moved to Leeds where he was Minister of the Unitarian Chapel at Mill Hill, and where he took up the study of chemistry. Whilst at Leeds he was one of the leading figures in the establishment of The Leeds Library, a private Subscription Library which still exists today. He left Leeds to become literary companion to Lord Shelburne, whom he accompanied on a continental tour. He was elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1772 and to the St. Petersburg Academy in 1780, in the same year he became minister of a chapel at Birmingham. Here he was a prominent member of the Lunar Society, a meeting for gentlemen which met on the night of the full moon in order to have light to see their way home. Other members included Josiah Wedgwood. His political leanings in supporting the French Revolution led to a mob at Birmingham breaking into his house and destroying his library and laboratory. He then moved to Hackney near London and in 1794 he removed to America, where he was heartily received at Northumberland in Pennsylvania, one of his sons was already living nearby. He died in America 6th February 1804, and is looked upon as one of the Founding Fathers of America.
This year (2004) is the 200th anniversary of his death, and various celebrations are taking place both in Leeds, Birstall, Birmingham and later in the Autumn in Philadelphia.

Submitted by Alan Longbottom

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George CanningBorn 11th April 1770, died 8th August 1827 aged 57
Henry CavendishBorn 10th October 1731, died 24th February 1810 aged 78
Captain James CookBorn 27th October 1728, died 14th February 1779 aged 50
Robert HawkerBorn 3rd December 1803, died 15th August 1875 aged 71
Robert OwenBorn 14th May 1771, died 17th November 1858 aged 87
Robert PeelBorn 5th February 1788, died 2nd July 1850 aged 62
John PeelBorn 1776, died 1854 aged 78
Humphry ReptonBorn 21st April 1752, died 24th March 1818 aged 65
Peter Mark RogetBorn 18th January 1779, died 12th September 1869 aged 90

Towns associated with Joseph Priestley

Birmingham
Leeds

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