What Important Contributions To Science Did Joseph Priestley Make?


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Kath Senior answered
Joseph Priestley was a vicar rather than a scientist but he was extremely interested in science and did many experiments during his life, making remarkable discoveries that were an important foundation for many aspects of modern science. His interest in science was first stimulated in 1766, when he met Benjamin Franklin who came to London that year.

The following year, as a result of experiments he did after meeting Franklin, Priestly discovered that graphite (the soft black solid now used in pencils) was a very good conductor of electricity.

His church was near a brewery and he visited many times and was fascinated by the way something seemed to hover over the grain as the beer was brewed. He realized that this must be gas that was being produced and he experimented with it, showing it could put out a lighted splint of wood – he discovered carbon dioxide.

He also showed that plants produce oxygen, he was the first to produce and study nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and he found that mercury oxide produced a gas that would make a candle burn very brightly. He never realized it, but this gas was oxygen. He also showed that ammonia could be decomposed using an electric current.

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