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The day Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen

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Joseph Priestley, oxygen, dephlogisticated air, gas, mercuric oxideUntil Joseph Priestley came along to the scientific scene in 1774, the general idea was that air was just a single entity.

However, his studies on air showed that it is actually a composition of lots of different gasses. He managed to isolate eight gasses, one of which was oxygen. He called it dephlogisticated air, leaving Antoine Lavoisier to name it oxygen.

Joseph_PriestleyHe used a container turned upside down to catch gasses given off by a range of experiments like heating the air with flame and putting a plant inside the jar.

He managed to isolate oxygen by focussing light onto a jar of mercuric oxide. The resulting gas kept a mouse alive for longer than the other gasses and made a flame burn brighter for longer.