Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Invention of Air

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Invention of Air

Article excerpt

The Invention of Air

By Steven Johnson

$25.95. Penguin.

New York, NY.

2008. ISBN: 1594488525.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The Invention of Air is more than the story of Joseph Priestly; it is also a story of science. Not since James D. Watson's The Double Helix allowed a peek into the behind-the-scenes machinations of the messy human endeavor called science, has a book so clearly revealed science as an interaction among culture, history, politics, philosophy, and religion.

Today, Priestly does not enjoy the status of Charles Darwin or Albert Einstein, but in his day he was quite celebrated. He corresponded frequently with Benjamin Franklin, sharing descriptions and results of experiments on electricity, ocean temperatures, methods used to identify different "airs," and myriad other investigations. Priestly, a minister by trade, also corresponded frequently with Thomas Jefferson on the nature of science and religion. Interestingly, Priestly, founder of the Unitarian Church, believed the role of science was to promote the happiness of mankind. As a result of his views, he alienated scientists and religious leaders alike. …

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