A World on Fire: A Heretic, an Aristocrat, and the Race to Discover Oxygen

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Viking, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 414 pages
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In the final decades of the 1700s, as the threat of revolution began to dim the radiance of the Enlightenment, two brilliant scientists simultaneously achieved a breakthrough that would alter the course of human thought and history: they discovered oxygen. The humble English dissenter Joseph Priestley and the French aristocrat Antoine Lavoisier were unlikely competitors, but their fierce rivalry to solve the ┬“riddle of air┬” became a kind of eighteenth-century space race, a contest made all the more exciting by the tumult of their time.

In A World on Fire, acclaimed writer Joe Jackson brings to life the seismic intellectual and political shifts that ushered in modern science. Set against the conflagrations of the American Revolution, the storming of the Bastille, and the Reign of Terror, Jackson┬'s narrative deftly weaves together biography and history, scientific passion and political will. With their discoveries inside the laboratory┬— paving the way for the identification of the elements as well as modern atomic physics┬—and the tragedy of their downfalls, Priestley and Lavoisier epitomize the plight of the scientist in the modern age. With A World on Fire, Jackson has transformed their story into a spellbinding work of narrative nonfiction.

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A world on fire: a heretic, an aristocrat, and the race to discover oxygen

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Five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Jackson (Leavenworth Train ) once again puts his investigative skills to the test, this time to trace the story of oxygen's discovery by Englishman Joseph Priestley ... Read full review

Contents

God in the Air i
11
The ClothDressers Son
19
The Sums and Receipts of Parallel Worlds
35
The Gas in the Beer
57
The Prodigy
77
The Goodness of Air
99
The Problem of Burning
128
SOLUTION
129
The Sentimental Journey
143
The Mouse in the Jar
163
The Twelve Days
175
The Language of War
188
King Mob
227
The World Out of Joint
261
The Burning World
327
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Joe Jackson is the author of one novel and three nonfiction titles, including Leavenworth Train, which was a finalist for the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. He worked for twelve years as an investigative reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, covering criminal justice and the state┬'s death row.

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