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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:05:05
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Dr Priestley has embellished his solitude with a philosophical 105 cabinet, which contains all the instruments necessary for his experiments, and a library rendered valuable by a choice of excellent works. The learned possessor employs himself in a variety of studies: History, Moral Philosophy and Religion have all in their turn engaged his pen. An active, intelligent mind and a natural avidity for knowledge gave him a passion for experimental philosophy; but the sensibility and gentleness of his disposition have sometimes directed his attention to pious and philanthropic studies, which do honour to the goodness of his heart, since they always have for their object the happiness of mankind.”

Whilst Priestley was at Leeds a proposal was made to him that he should accompany Captain Cook in his second voyage to the South Seas. It probably arose 81 from his connection with the Admiralty in the matter of his invention. He tells us that as the terms were very advantageous he consented to it, the heads of his congregation agreeing to keep an assistant to supply his place during his absence. But Mr Banks informed him that he was objected to by some clergymen in the Board of Longitude, who had the direction of this business, on account of his religious principles. Whether,” said Huxley, in commenting on this circumstance in the course of his speech at the unveiling of the Priestley statue in Birmingham in 1874, these worthy ecclesiastics feared that Priestley’s presence among the ship’s company might expose his Majesty’s sloop Resolution to the fate which aforetime befell a certain ship that went from Joppa to Tarshish, or whether they were alarmed lest a Socinian should undermine that piety which in the days of Commodore Trunnion so strikingly characterised sailors, does not appear.” The appointment was given to Reinhold Forster, a man, as Priestley fully admitted, far better qualified for the position.

He goes on to say that:—

The following characteristic letter to his friend, Miss Aiken, is interesting as illustrating the action of the active, eager mind which, as its owner says, found scope for every kind of exertion at this period of his life:—


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