Joseph Priestley Chronology

1733 Born on 13 March at Fieldhead, Birstall, near Leeds, the son of a non-conformist cloth dresser
1742-6 Educated at Batley Grammar School
1744 Demonstrated his interested in air by bottling up spiders to see how long they would live without fresh air.
1746-51 Studied under John Kirkby, congregational minister at Upper Chapel, Heckmondwike and George Haggerston, congregational minister at Hopton.
1751 Entered the newly-opened academy for dissenters at Daventry to train as a non-conformist minister
1755 Appointed minister at Needham Market, Suffolk
1758 Appointed minister at Nantwhich, Cheshire, where he also established a school.
1761 Became tutor in languages and belles-lettres at Warrington Academy (like Daventry, an alternative for non-conformists to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge)
1766 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
1767 Appointed minister at Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds
1768 Publication of his Essay on Government from which Jeremy Bentham derived the phrase ‘The greatest happiness of the greatest number’.
Prompted the founding of the Leeds Library and became its first secretary
Founded the Theological Repository, a journal for the open discussion of religion.
1773 Awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society for dissolving carbon dioxide in water
Leaves Mill Hill, to become librarian to the Earl of Shelburne at Calne, Wiltshire where he was encouraged to continue his scientific research.
1774 Isolated oxygen
1780 Appointed minister at New Meeting, Birmingham
Joined the Birmingham Lunar Society
1784 Published his essay rejecting the doctrine of the Virgin birth as without historical basis, in the Theological Repository.
1786 Published the first of a series of annual defences of Unitarianism.
1791 The Birmingham Riots: Priestley flees to London when the mob destroy New Meeting and his house and laboratory.
Appointed minister at Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney.
1793 Priestley’s three sons emigrated to America.
1794 Priestley and his wife emigrated to America, settling at Northumberland, Pennsylvania where he conducted services in his own home and then in an adjoining wooden building.
1796 Priestley’s wife died.
1804 Died in Northumberland on 6 February.

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