Back to top In 1767, Priestley was offered a ministry in Leeds, Englane, located near a brewery.
Joseph Priestley was born in Yorkshire, the eldest son of a maker of wool cloth.
His mother died after bearing six children in six years.
Before long, he was encouraged to study for the ministry.
And study, as it turned out, was something Joseph Priestley did very well.
So he enrolled at Daventry Academy, a celebrated school for Dissenters, and was exempted from a year of classes because of his achievements.
After graduation, he supported himself, as he would for the rest of his life, by teaching, tutoring and preaching.
Some 2,500 years ago, the ancient Greeks identified air — along with earth, fire and water — as one of the four elemental components of creation. But it made excellent sense at the time, and there was so little reason to dispute it that the idea persisted until the late 18th century.
It might have endured even longer had it not been for a free-thinking English chemist and maverick theologian named Joseph Priestley.
His unorthodox religious writings and his support for the American and French revolutions so enraged his countrymen that he was forced to flee England in 1794.
He settled in Pennsylvania, where he continued his research until his death.