The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America
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From the bestselling author of Where Good Ideas Come From, The Ghost Map and Everything Bad Is Good for You, a new national bestseller: the “exhilarating”( Los Angeles Times) story of Joseph Priestley, “a founding father long forgotten”(Newsweek) and a brilliant man who embodied the relationship between science, religion, and politics for America's Founding Fathers.
In The Invention of Air, national bestselling author Steven Johnson tells the fascinating story of Joseph Priestley—scientist and theologian, protégé of Benjamin Franklin, friend of Thomas Jefferson—an eighteenth-century radical thinker who played pivotal roles in the invention of ecosystem science, the discovery of oxygen, the uses of oxygen, scientific experimentation, the founding of the Unitarian Church, and the intellectual development of the United States. As he did so masterfully in The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson uses a dramatic historical story to explore themes that have long engaged him: innovative strategies, intellectual models, and the way new ideas emerge and spread, and the environments that foster these breakthroughs.
winter in a town house near Shelburne’s residence in Berkeley Square, and the rest of the year at Bowood, the family estate in Calne, Wiltshire, in the southwest. Happy with his relative freedom and extraordinary run of success in Leeds, Priestley spent months weighing the decision. He wrote to Franklin for advice, and Franklin suggested what was then a novel approach to resolving such an issue:My Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and
in the flow of energy through society. The birth of agriculture enabled humans to stockpile energy in the form of domesticated plants and livestock, thus enabling the larger population centers that evolved into the first cities. Empires became possible thanks to innovations that captured the energy required to move armies and government officials across large distances, via the muscular energy of horses or the harnessed wind power of ships. Industrialization took the stored energy of
experiments in some proportion to the sum he subscribes, and let a periodical account be published of the result of them all, successful or unsuccessful. In this manner, the powers of all the members would be united and increased. Nothing would be left untried, which could be compassed at a moderate expence, and it being one person’s business to attend to these experiments, they would be made, and reported without loss of time. This vision is classic Priestley in the way it mirrors his own
Robert. “Atmospheric Oxygen, Giant Paleozoic Insects and the Evolution of Aerial Locomotor Performance.” Journal of Experimental Biology 201 (1998): 1043-50. Duffy, John. “The Passage to the Colonies.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 38 (1951): 21-38. Ellis, Joseph J. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. ———. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Vintage Books, 2002. Eshet, Dan. “Rereading Priestley: Science at the
I have made an experiment which, I think proves that Glass when heated red hot is a conductor of electricity. I took a glass tube about four feet long, and by means of mercury on the inside and tinfoil on the outside, I charged about nine inches of it very strongly. . . . I took a cork, and stuck into the sides of it (pointing directly from the center) thirteen vanes each consisting of half a common card. Into the middle of the card I stuck a needle. . . . I have made a great number of