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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), Theologian and scientist

Scientist and dissenting minister; LL.D Edinburgh 1764; FRS 1766, friend and correspondent of Franklin, published a History of Electricity, 1767; by 1774 he had defined oxygen; librarian to Lord Lansdowne 1772-80; his radical sympathies led to the destruction of his home during the Birmingham riots of 1791; emigrated to America 1794 and d. in Northumberland, Pa.; ‘if we choose one man as a type of the intellectual energy of the eighteenth century we could hardly find a better than Joseph Priestley’ (F. Harrison).

‘Dr Priestley was about the middle stature, or five feet eight inches high. He was slender, and well proportioned; his complexion was fair, his eyes grey and sparking with intelligence, and his whole countenance was expressive of the benignity of his heart. He often smiled but seldom laughed’ (J. Corry, 1804).

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.