Dr. Cogan Reflection

I found the discussion of Priestley and Lavoisier’s work in the context of the Enlightenment very interesting. I was somewhat familiar with Priestley’s experiments with “phlogiston” previously, but didn’t know anything about his politics, religion, or life more generally. His rejection of the divinity of Christ while maintaining the existence of the Abrahamic God reminded me a lot of Thomas Jefferson’s religious views, especially his “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”. Dr. Cogan mentioned later in the lecture that Priestley became good friends with Jefferson after moving to America. In Googling this further, I found that Jefferson cited Priestley as an inspiration for his religious views. I also found Priestley’s correspondence with Benjamin Franklin very interesting. Franklin, in his response to Priestley’s letter about the “mint and mice” experiment, seemed to realize surprisingly early how vital forests are to keeping our air clean, and his stance against deforestation also seemed very ahead of its time to me.

One thought on “Dr. Cogan Reflection

  1. Yes, from the book, The Invention of Air, I also was struck by just how much Priestly influenced Jefferson’s religious views. Whereas some like Franklin were able to comfortably reject religion and focus more on the rational science of the times, both Priestly and Jefferson’s strong inclination to believe in God made them unable to reject religion altogether. Priestly seemed to have helped Jefferson find a middle ground through his rational analysis of Christianity. For me personally, it drove home just how conflicted Jefferson was as a person, which is also evident in his conflicting views on slavery.

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