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Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)
Though best known today for his discovery of the gas oxygen, Joseph Priestley was a man of wide interests and boundless curiosity. Born in Yorkshire, about 200 miles north of London, he was raised outside England’s state religion and would eventually become one of the founders of the Unitarian Church. While holding a variety of jobs as a minister, teacher, lecturer and tutor, he wrote prolifically on subjects ranging from education and theology to politics and science. But it was Priestley’s idea for a book about electricity that led to his warm friendship with Benjamin Franklin — and inspired him to become a scientist in his own right.
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