Mary's Reviews > The Invention of Air

The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson
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's review
Nov 30, 09

Read in November, 2009

The secondary title is "A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and The Birth of America." Quite a mouthful. I hope it doesn't discourage potential readers. The author makes complicated events very accessible and timely,
so informally that when he cites one Joe Jackson and his "World on Fire,"
I'm ready to go to the music store, hoping it's as good as the "Heaven and Hell" oratorio with Dawn Upshaw. Wrong Joe Jackson entirely (this one's a historian). Joseph Priestley, Johnson's hero, is amazingly prolific in all those connections (science, faith, etc.) After isolating oxygen (to be named that later by Lavoissier) and enjoying its heady effect, Priestley speculates that "...in time to come, this pure air may become a fashionable article in luxury. Hitherto only two mice and myself had had the privilege of breathing it." Beyond such details, the author sees Priestley and his
wide-ranging interests as prefiguring the whole development of ecology.
And influencing Jefferson, Adams, and Benjamin Franklin while he was at it.
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