There are many reasons for celebrating the life of Reverend Joseph Priestley who died on 6 February 1804.
Arguably his greatest legacy is to science: we can see him as the forerunner of modern ecologists since he discovered that (in a process which we now call photosynthesis) plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air; he could be regarded as the father of anaesthesia since he discovered nitrous oxide which is still used today as an anaesthetic. He discovered oxygen itself.
Priestley was a political theorist and campaigner; in his time only people who took communion in the Church of England were admitted to Oxford or Cambridge Universities; nor could anyone become a member of Parliament unless he was a communicant member of the Established Church; as a Non-conformist Priestley campaigned against these restrictions. He also spoke out against the slave trade.
All Priestley's work was in pursuit of Truth and to arrive at a greater understanding of the works of God.
As a Unitarian, Priestley accepted the teachings of Jesus but not that he was one with God; his rational approach to scripture is widely accepted today.
Suggestion for collective worship at primary-school level
Suggestion for a short talk for secondary school pupils
Hymn: Now praise we great and famous men and women
Prayers based on words by Joseph Priestley
The (lighthearted) song of Joseph Priestley
Some topics for discussion
The Birmingham riots of July 1791
Letter written by Priestley to the people of Birmingham after the riots of 1791
Priestley the scientist
Priestley and ecology
Some facts about Priestley's life and work
Priestley in Suffolk
Priestley's appearance and manner
Quotations from Priestley's writings
More quotations from Priestley's work
Brief extracts from Priestley's sermons
Priestley - a chronology
The monument to Joseph Priestley at New Meeting, Birmingham
The statue of Priestley in City Square, Leeds
The statue of Priestley at Birstall
Find out more about Joseph Priestley
Find out about the Priestley Society
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