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ORIGINS OF MODERNITY

natural philosophy

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Priestley, Joseph (1733-1804)
Experiments and observations on different kinds of air.
London : printed for J. Johnson, 1774.

Image from Priestley's Experiments

This is the first edition of the work in which Priestley announced the discovery of 'dephlogisticated air' which we now know was actually oxygen. Looking back, we can see how far the study of the air had progressed from the time of von Guericke and Boyle. Looking forward, it is important to note that Priestley's work was crucial for the overthrow of the phlogiston theory by Lavoisier. Thus this section intersects with that of Alchemy and Chemistry elsewhere in the exhibition. Interestingly, Priestley never gave up the phlogiston theory, but the implication of Lavoisier's work on 'airs' was that phlogiston does not exist.

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