THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
enjoyed, in his own student days, at Daventry. One of his pupils tells us that—
"At the conclusion of his lecture, he always encouraged his students to express their sentiments relative to the subject of it, and to urge any objections to what he had delivered, without reserve. It pleased him when any one commenced such a conversation. In order to excite the freest discussion, he occasionally invited the students to drink tea with him, in order to canvass the subjects of his lectures. I do not recollect that he ever showed the least displeasure at the strongest objections that were made to what he delivered, but I distinctly remember the smile of approbation with which he usually received them: nor did he fail to point out, in a very encouraging manner, the ingenuity or force of any remarks that were made, when they merited these characters. His object, as well as Dr. Aikin's, was, to engage the students to examine and decide for themselves, uninfluenced by the sentiments of any other persons."
It would be difficult to give a better description of a model teacher than that conveyed in these words.
From his earliest days, Priestley had shown a strong bent toward the study of Nature; and his brother Timothy tells that the boy put spiders into bottles to see how long they would live in the same air—a curious anticipation of the investigations of his later years. At Nantwich, where he set up a school, Priestley informs us that he bought an air-pump, an electrical machine, and other instruments, in the use of which he instructed his scholars. But he does not seem to have devoted himself seriously to physical science until 1766, when he had the great good fortune to meet Benjamin Franklin, whose friendship he ever afterward enjoyed. Encouraged by Franklin, he wrote a "History of Electricity," which was published in 1767, and appears to have met with considerable success.
In the same year, Priestley left Warrington to become the minister of a congregation at Leeds; and here, happening to live next door to a public brewery, as he says—
"I at first amused myself with making experiments on the fixed air which I found ready made in the process of fermentation. When I removed from that house I was under the necessity of making fixed air for myself; and, one experiment leading to another, as I have distinctly and faithfully noted in my various publications on the subject, I by degrees contrived a convenient apparatus for the purpose, but of the cheapest kind.
"When I began these experiments I knew very little of chemistry, and had, in a manner, no idea on the subject before I attended a course of chemical lectures, delivered in the academy at Warrington, by Dr. Turner, of Liverpool. But I have often thought that, upon the whole, this circumstance was no disadvantage to me; as, in this situation, I was led to devise an apparatus and processes of my own, adapted to my peculiar views; whereas, if I had been previously accustomed to the usual chemical processes, I should not have so easily thought of any other, and, without new modes of operation, I should hardly have discovered any thing materially new."
- ↑ "Life and Correspondence of Dr. Priestley," by J. T. Rutt, vol. i., p. 50.
- ↑ "Autobiography," §§ 100, 101.