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Memoirs of Dr Joseph Priestley

Nature volume 70, pages 218219 (07 July 1904) | Download Citation



THE story of the origin and history of this little book may be told in a few words. The greater portion was composed by the subject of it in the year 1787, when at Birmingham as minister of the New Meeting. Priestley's tenure of this office was rudely interrupted by the shameful and disastrous riots of July, 1791, when his house and laboratory, and much of his apparatus and library, were destroyed by the mob. Although many of his books and papers were burnt or otherwise made away with, the autobiography escaped destruction, and was ultimately recovered. Some years afterwards, whilst at Northumberland, in Pennsylvania, whither he removed in 1794, he resumed the story of his life, bringing it down to March, 1795, when he had completed the sixty-second year of his age. Although he lived nine years more, for the most part in fairly good health, it would appear that he added nothing to his account of himself, and it was left to his eldest son to continue his biography to the time of his death, and to see the work through the press., The first edition of the “Memoirs” was published by Johnson, of St. Paul's Churchyard, a staunch friend of Priestley's, by whom, indeed, the greater number of his works—educational, theological, and scientific—were issued. It was reprinted in 1833, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, and it is again reprinted in commemoration of the centenary of his death.

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