The Invention of Air is so much more than an intellectual biography of Joseph Priestley, one of the brightest stars in the 18th Century political, religious and scientific firmament. It is a spectacular demonstration of that virtue Priestley possessed in superabundance, intellectual curiosity. Priestley is less known than he should be: Among his extraordinary generation, he is rivaled only by Jefferson in his astonishing breadth of accomplishment and lasting influence. He invented the liberal arts education, wrote the first book of popular science, discovered that air was composed of several gasses necessary for combustion and life and helped found Unitarianism. Steven Johnson goes beyond tracing Priestley's remarkable life to apply a gleefully promiscuous erudition to the questions it raises: Why does a certain group in a certain place (in this case a coffee house near St. Paul's) produce an efflorescence of achievement? How does individual talent and application jostle with socioeconomic forces in the production of knowledge? Where did the energy to power the industrial and scientific revolutions come from? Steven Johnson is a master of the dazzling superimposition. For example, using network theory to understand the scientific breakthrough that allowed us to understand that all life is an interdependent web. The Invention of Air combines the digressive enlightenment of Wikipedia and an 18th century coffee house.
The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America - Steven Johnson
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - September 29th, 2009