A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900

Author: Joseph Priestley  | Date: 1790

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Joseph Priestley

Section III. Of Dephlogisticated Air, and of the Constitution of the Atmosphere.

The contents of this section will furnish a very striking illustration of the truth of a remark, which I have more than once made in my philosophical writings, and which can hardly be too often repeated, as it tends greatly to encourage philosophical investigations; viz. that more is owing to what we call chance, that is, philosophically speaking, to the observation of events arising from unknown causes, than to any proper design, or pre-conceived theory in this business. This does not appear in the works of those who write synthetically upon these subjects; but would, I doubt not, appear very strikingly in those who are the most celebrated for their philosophical acumen, did they write analytically and ingenuously.

For my own part, I will frankly acknowledge, that, at the commencement of the experiments recited in this section, I was so far from having formed any hypothesis that led to the discoveries I made in pursuing them, that they would have appeared very improbable to me had I been told of them; and when the decisive facts did at length obtrude themselves upon my notice, it was very slowly, and with great hesitation, that I yielded to the evidence of my senses. And yet, when I reconsider the matter, and compare my last discoveries relating to the constitution of the atmosphere with the first, I see the closest and the easiest connexion in the world between them, so as to wonder that I should not have been led immediately from the one to the other. That this was not the case, I attribute to the force of prejudice, which, unknown to ourselves, biasses not only our judgments, properly so called, but even the perceptions of our senses: for we may take a maxim so strongly for granted, that the plainest evidence of sense will not intirely change, and often hardly modify our persuasions; and the more ingenious a man is, the more effectually he is entangled in his errors; his ingenuity only helping him to deceive himself, by evading the force of truth.

There are, I believe, very few maxims in philosophy that have laid firmer hold upon the mind, than that air, meaning atmospherical air (free from various foreign matters, which were always supposed to be dissolved, and intermixed with it) is a simple elementary substance, indestructible, and unalterable, at least as much so as water is supposed to be. In the course of my inquiries, I was, however, soon satisfied that atmospherical air is not an unalterable thing; for that the phlogiston with which it becomes loaded from bodies burning in it, and animals breathing it, and various other chemical processes, so far alters and depraves it, as to render it altogether unfit for inflammation, respiration, and other purposes to which it is subservient; and I had discovered that agitation in water, the process of vegetation, and probably other natural processes, by taking out the superfluous phlogiston, restore it to its original purity. But I own I had no idea of the possibility of going any farther in this way, and thereby procuring air purer than the best common air. I might, indeed, have naturally imagined that such would be air that should contain less phlogiston than the air of the atmosphere; but I had no idea that such a composition was possible.

It will be seen in my last publication, that, from the experiments which I made on the marine acid air, I was led to conclude that common air consisted of some acid (and I naturally inclined to the acid that I was then operating upon) and phlogiston; because the union of this acid vapour and phlogiston made inflammable air; and inflammable air, by agitation in water, ceases to be inflammable, and becomes respirable. And though I could never make it quite so good as common air, I thought it very probable that vegetation, in more favourable circumstances than any in which I could apply it, or some other natural process, might render it more pure.

Upon this, which no person can say was an improbable supposition, was founded my conjecture, of volcanos having given birth to the atmosphere of this planet, supplying it with a permanent air, first inflammable, then deprived of its inflammability by agitation in water, and farther purified by vegetation.

Several of the known phenomena of the nitrous acid might have led me to think, that this was more proper for the constitution of the atmosphere than the marine acid: but my thoughts had got into a different train, and nothing but a series of observations, which I shall now distinctly relate, compelled me to adopt another hypothesis, and brought me, in a way of which I had then no idea, to the solution of the great problem, which my reader will perceive I have had in view ever since my discovery that the atmospherical air is alterable, and therefore that it is not an elementary substance, but a composition, viz. what this composition is, or what is the thing that we breathe, and how is it to be made from its constituent principles.

At the time of my former publication, I was not possessed of a burning lens of any considerable force; and for want of one, I could not possibly make many of the experiments that I had projected, and which, in theory, appeared very promising. I had, indeed, a mirror of force sufficient for my purpose. But the nature of this instrument is such, that it cannot be applied, with effect, except upon substances that are capable of being suspended, or resting on a very slender support. It cannot be directed at all upon any substance in the form of a powder, nor hardly upon any thing that requires to be put into a vessel of quicksilver; which appears to me to be the most accurate method of extracting air from a great variety of substances, as was explained in the Introduction to this volume. But having

Folding frontispiece from Priestley’s "Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air," London, 1774.

afterwards procured a lens of twelve inches diameter, and twenty inches focal distance, I proceeded with great alacrity to examine, by the help of it, what kind of air a great variety of substances, natural and factitious, would yield, putting them into the vessels represented fig. a, which I filled with quicksilver, and kept inverted in a bason of the same. Mr. Warltire, a good chymist, and lecturer in natural philosophy, happening to be at that time in Calne, I explained my views to him, and was furnished by him with many substances, which I could not otherwise have procured.

With this apparatus, after a variety of other experiments, an account of which will be found in its proper place, on the 1st of August, 1774, I endeavoured to extract air from mercurius calcinatus per se; and I presently found that, by means of this lens, air was expelled from it. very readily. Having got about three or four times as much as the bulk of my materials, I admitted water to it, and found that it was not imbibed by it. But what surpirzed me more than I can well express, was, that a candle burned in this air with a remarkably vigorous flame, very much like that enlarged flame with which a candle burns in nitrous air, exposed to iron or liver of sulphur; but as I had got nothing like this remarkable appearance from any kind of air besides this particuluar modification of nitrous air, and I knew no nitrous acid was used in the preparation of mercurius calcinatus, I was utterly at a loss how to account for it.

In this case, also, though I did not give sufficient attention to the circumstance at that time, the flame of the candle, besides being larger, burned with more splendor and heat than in that species of nitrous air; and a piece of red-hot wood sparkled in it, exactly like paper dipped in a solution of nitre, and it consumed very fast; an experiment which I had never thought of trying with nitrous air.

At the same time that I made the above mentioned experiment, I extracted a quantity of air, with the very same property, from the common red precipitate, which being produced by a solution of mercury in spirit of nitre, made me conclude that this peculiar property, being similar to that of the modification of nitrous air above mentioned, depended upon something being communicated to it by the nitrous acid; and since the mercurius calcinatus is produced by exposing mercury to a certain degree of heat, where common air has access to it, I likewise concluded that this substance had collected something of nitre, in that state of heat, from the atmosphere.

This, however, appearing to me much more extraordinary than it ought to have done, I entertained some suspicion that the mercurius calcinatus, on which I had made my experiments, being bought at a common apothecary’s, might, in fact, be nothing more than red precipitate; though, had I been any thing of a practical chymist, I could not have entertained any such suspicion. However, mentioning this suspicion to Mr. Warltire, he furnished me with some that he had kept for a specimen of the preparation, and which, he told me, he could warrant to be genuine. This being treated in the same manner as the former, only by a longer continuance of heat, I extracted much more air from it than from the other.

This experiment might have satisfied any moderate sceptic: but, however, being at Paris in the October following, and knowing that there were several very eminent chymists in that place, I did not omit the opportunity, by means of my friend Mr. Magellan, to get an ounce of mercurius calcinatus prepared by Mr. Cadet. of the genuineness of which there could not possibly be any suspicion; and at the same time, I frequently mentioned my surprize at the kind of air which I had got from this preparation to Mr. Lavoisier. Mr. le Roy, and several other philosophers, who hon-oured me with their notice in that city; and who, I dare say, cannot fail to recollect the circumstance.

At the same time, I had no suspicion that the air which I had got from the mercurius calcinatus was even wholesome, so far was I from knowing what it was that I had really found; taking it for granted, that it was nothing more than such kind of air as I had brought nitrous air to be by the processes above mentioned; and in this air I have observed that a candle would burn sometime quite naturally, and sometimes with a beautiful enlarged flame, and yet remain perfectly noxious.

At the same time that I had got the air above mentioned from mercurius calcinatus and the red precipitate, I had got the same kind from red lead or minium. In this process, that part of the minium on which the focus of the lens had fallen, turned yellow. One third of the air, in this experiment, was readily absorbed by water, but, in the remainder, a candle burned very strongly, and with a crackling noise.

That fixed air is contained in red lead I had observed before; for I had expelled it by the heat of a candle, and had found it to be very pure. I imagine it requires more heat than I then used to expel any of the other kind of air.

This experiment with red lead confirmed me more in my suspicion, that the mercurius calcinatus must get the property of yielding this kind of air from the atmosphere, the process by which that preparation, and this of red lead is made, being similar. As I never make the least secret of any thing that I observe, I mentioned this experiment also, as well as those with the mercurius calcinatus, and the red precipitate, to all my philosophical acquaintance at Paris, and elsewhere; having no idea, at that time, to what these remarkable facts would lead.

Presently after my return from abroad, I went to work upon the mercurius calcinatus, which I had procured from Mr. Cadet; and, with a very moderate degree of heat, I got from about one fourth of an ounce of it, an ounce-measure of air, which I observed to be not readily imbibed, either by the substance itself from which it had been expelled (for I suffered them to continue a long time together before I transferred the air to any other place) or by water, in which I suffered this air to stand a considerable time before I made any experiment upon it.

In this air, as I had expected, a candle burned with a vivid flame; but what I observed new at this time (Nov. 19), and which surprized me no less than the fact I had discovered before, was, that, whereas a few moments agitation in water will deprive the modified nitrous air of its property of admitting a candle to burn in it; yet, after more than ten times as much agitation as would be sufficient to produce this alteration in the nitrous air, no sensible change was produced in this. A candle still burned in it with a strong flame; and it did not, in the least, diminish common air, which I have observed that nitrous air, in this state, in some measure, does.

But I was much more surprized, when, after two days, in which this air had continued in contact with water (by which it was diminished about one twentieth of its bulk) I agitated it violently in water about five minutes,

Folding plate, facing page 324, from Priestley’s "Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air," London, 1774. A view of his laboratory.

and found that a candle still burned in it as well as in common air. The same degree of agitation would have made phlogisticated nitrous air fit for respiration indeed; but it would certainly have extinguished a candle.

These facts fully convinced me, that there must be a very material difference between the constitution of the air from mercurius calcinatus, and that of phlogisticated nitrous air, notwithstanding their resemblance in some particulars. But though I did not doubt that the air from mercurius calcinatus was fit for respiration, after being agitated in water, as every kind of air without exception, on which I had tried the experiment, had been, I still did not suspect that it was respirable in the first instance; so far was I from having any idea of this air being, what it really was, much superior, in this respect, to the air of the atmosphere.

In this ignorance of the real nature of this kind of air, I continued from this time (November) to the 1st of March following; having, in the mean time, been intent upon my experiments on the vitriolic acid air above recited, and the various modifications of air produced by spirit of nitre, an account of which will follow. But in the course of this month, I not only ascertained the nature of this kind of air, though very gradually, but was led by it to the complete discovery of the constitution of the air we breathe.

Till this 1st of March, 1775, I had so little suspicion of the air from mercurius calcinatus, &c. being wholesome, that I had not even thought of applying to it the test of nitrous air; but thinking (as my reader must imagine I frequently must have done) on the candle burning in it after long agitation in water, it occurred to me at last to make the experiment; and putting one measure of nitrous air to two measures of this air, I found, not only that it was diminished, but that it was diminished quite as much as common air, and that the redness of the mixture was likewise equal to that of a similar mixture of nitrous and common air.

After this I had no doubt but that the air from mercurius calcinatus was fit for respiration, and that it had all the other properties of genuine common air. But I did not take notice of what I might have observed, if I had not been so fully possessed by the notion of there being no air better than common air, that the redness was really deeper, and the diminution something greater than common air would have admitted.

Moreover, this advance in the way of truth, in reality, threw me back into error, making me give up the hypothesis I had first formed, the mercurius calcinatus had extracted spirit of nitre from the air; for I now concluded, that all the constituent parts of the air were equally, and in their proper proportion, imbibed in the preparation of this substance, and also in the process of making red lead. For at the same time that I made the above-mentioned experiment on the air from mercurius calcinatus, I likewise observed that the air which I had extracted from red lead, after the fixed air was washed out of it, was of the same nature, being diminished by nitrous air like common air: but, at the same time, I was puzzled to find that air from the red precipitate was diminished in the same manner, though the process for making this substance is quite different from that of making the two others. But to this circumstance I happened not to give much attention.

I wish my reader be not quite tired with the frequent repetition of the word suprize, and others of similar import; but I must go on in that style a little longer. For the next day I was more surprized than ever I had been before, with finding that, after the above-mentioned mixture of nitrous air and the air from mercurius calcinatus, had stood all night, (in which time the whole diminution must have taken place; and, consequently, had it been common air, it must have been made perfectly noxious, and intirely unfit for respiration or inflammation) a candle burned in it, and even better than in common air.

I cannot, at this distance of time, recollect what it was that I had in view in making this experiment; but I know I had no expectation of the real issue of it. Having acquired a considerable degree of readiness in making experiments of this kind, a very slight and evanescent motive would be sufficient to induce me to do it. If, however, I had not happened, for some other purpose, to have had a lighted candle before me, I should probably never have made the trial; and the whole train of my future experiments relating to this kind of air might have been prevented.

Still, however, having no conception of the real cause of this phenomenon, I considered it as something very extraordinary; but as a property that was peculiar to air extracted from these substances, and adventitious; and I always spoke of the air to my acquaintance as being substantially the same thing with common air. I particularly remember my telling Dr. Price, that I was myself perfectly satisfied of its being common air, as it appeared to be so by the test of nitrous air; though, for the satisfaction of others, I wanted a mouse to make the proof quite complete.

On the 8th of this month I procured a mouse, and put it into a glass vessel, containing two ounce-measures of the air from mercurius cal-cinatus. Had it been common air, a full-grown mouse, as this was, would have lived in it about a quarter of an hour. In this air, however, my mouse lived a full half hour; and though it was taken out seemingly dead, it appeared to have been only exceedingly chilled; for, upon being held to the fire, it presently revived, and appeared not to have received any harm from the experiment.

By this I was confirmed in my conclusion, that the air extracted from mercurius calcinatus, &c. was, at least, as good as common air; but I did not certainly conclude that it was any better; because, though one mouse would live only a quarter of an hour in a given quantity of air, I knew it was not impossible but that another mouse might have lived in it half an hour; so little accuracy is there in this method of ascertaining the goodness of air: and indeed I have never had recourse to it for my own satisfaction, since the discovery of that most ready, accurate, and elegant test that nitrous air furnishes. But in this case I had a view to publishing the most generally-satisfactory account of my experiments that the nature of the thing would admit of.

This experiment with the mouse, when I had reflected upon it some time, gave me so much suspicion that the air into which I had put it was better than common air, that I was induced, the day after, to apply the test of nitrous air to a small part of that very quantity of air which the mouse had breathed so long; so that, had it been common air, I was satisfied it must have been very nearly, if not altogether, as noxious as possible, so as not to be affected by nitrous air; when, to my surprize again, I found that though it had been breathed so long, it was still better than common air. For after mixing it with nitrous air, in the usual proportion of two to one, it was diminished in the proportion of 4½ to 3½; that is, the nitrous air had made it two ninths less than before, and this in a very short space of time; whereas I had never found that, in the longest time, any common air was reduced more than one fifth of its bulk by any proportion of nitrous air, nor more than one fourth by any phlogistic process whatever. Thinking of this extraordinary fact upon my pillow, the next morning I put another measure of nitrous air to the same mixture, and, to my utter astonishment, found that it was farther diminished to almost one half of its original quantity. I then put a third measure to it; but this did not diminish it any farther: but, however, left it one measure less than it was even after the mouse had been taken out of it.

Being now fully satisfied that this air, even after the mouse had breathed it half an hour, was much better than common air; and having a quantity of it still left, sufficient for the experiment, viz. an ounce-measure and a half, I put the mouse into it; when I observed that it seemed to feel no shock upon being put into it, evident signs of which would have been visible, if the air had not been very wholesome; but that it remained perfectly at its ease another full half hour, when I took it out quite lively and vigorous. Measuring the air the next day, I found it to be reduced from 1½ to

of an ounce-measure. And after this, if I remember well (for in my register of the day I only find it noted, that it was considerably diminished by nitrous air) it was nearly as good as common air. It was evident, indeed, from the mouse having been taken out quite vigorous, that the air could not have been rendered very noxious.

For my farther satisfaction I procured another mouse, and putting it into less than two ounce-measures of air extracted from mercurius can cinatus and air from red precipitate (which, having found them to be of the same quality, I had mixed together) it lived three quarters of an hour. But not having had the precaution to set the vessel in a warm place, I suspect that the mouse died of cold. However, as it had lived three times as long as it could probably have lived in the same quantity of common air, and I did not expect much accuracy from this kind of test, I did not think it necessary to make any more experiments with mice.

Being now fully satisfied of the superior goodness of this kind of air, I proceeded to measure that degree of purity, with as much accuracy as I could, by the test of nitrous air; and I began with putting one measure of nitrous air to two measures of this air, as if I had been examining common air; and now I observed that the diminution was evidently greater than common air would have suffered by the same treatment. A second measure of nitrous air reduced it to two thirds of its original quantity, and a third measure to one half. Suspecting that the diminution could not proceed much farther, I then added only half a measure of nitrous air, by which it was diminished still more; but not much, and another half measure made it more than half of its original quantity; so that, in this case, two measures of this air took more than two measures of nitrous air. and yet remained less than half of what it was. Five measures brought it pretty exactly to its original dimensions.

At the same time, air from red precipitate was diminished in the same proportion as that from mercurius calcinatus, five measures of nitrous air being received by two measures of this without any increase of dimensions. Now as common air takes about one half of its bulk of nitrous air, before it begins to receive any addition to its dimensions from more nitrous air, and this air took more than four half-measures before it ceased to be diminished by more nitrous air, and even five half-measures made no addition to its original dimensions, I conclude that it was between four and five times as good as common air. It will be seen that I have since procured air better than this, even between five and six times as good as the best common air that I have ever met with.

When air has been freshly and strongly tainted with putrefaction, so as to smell through the water, sprigs of mint have presently died, upon being put into it, their leaves turning black; but if they do not die presently, they thrive in a most surprizing manner. In no other circumstances have I ever seen vegetation so vigorous as in this kind of air, which is immediately fatal to animal life. Though these plants have been crouded in jars filled with this air, every leaf has been full of life; fresh shoots have branched out in various directions, and have grown much faster than other similar plants, growing in the same exposure in common air.

This observation led me to conclude, that plants, instead of affecting the air in the same manner with animal respiration, reverse the effects of breathing, and tend to keep the atmosphere sweet and wholesome, when it is become noxious, in consequence of animals either living and breathing, or dying and putrefying in it.

In order to ascertain this, I took a quantity of air, made thoroughly noxious, by mice breathing and dying in it, and divided it into two parts; one of which I put into a phial immersed in water; and to the other (which was contained in a glass jar, standing in water) I put a sprig of mint. This was about the beginning of August 1771, and after eight or nine days, I found that a mouse lived perfectly well in that part of the air, in which the sprig of mint had grown, but died the moment it was put into the other part of the same original quantity of air; and which I had kept in the very same exposure, but without any plant growing in it.

This experiment I have several times repeated; sometimes using air in which animals had breathed and died; sometimes using air tainted with vegetable or animal putrefaction, and generally with the same success.

Once, I let a mouse live and die in a quantity of air which had been noxious, but which had been restored by this process, and it lived nearly as long as I conjectured it might have done in an equal quantity of fresh air; but this is so exceedingly various, that it is not easy to form any judgment from it; and in this case the symptom of difficult respiration seemed to begin earlier than it would have done in common air.

Since the plants that I have made use of manifestly grow and thrive in putrid air; since putrid matter is well known to afford proper nourishment for the roots of plants; and since it is likewise certain that they receive nourishment by their leaves as well as by their roots, it seems to be exceedingly probable, that the putrid effluvium is in some measure extracted from the air, by means of the leaves of plants, and therefore that they render the remainder more fit for respiration.


One of my earliest observations on the subject of air, but made casually, when, in fact, I expected a contrary result from the process, was the purification of air injured by respiration or putrefaction, by the vegetation of plants. But at that time I was altogether ignorant of the part that light had to act in the business. At the publication of the experiments recited in the last section, I had fully ascertained the influence of light in the production of dephlogisticated air in water by means of a green substance, which I at first supposed to be a plant, but not being able to discover the form of one, I contented myself with calling it simply green matter.

Several of my friends, however, better skilled in botany than myself, never entertained any doubt of its being a plant; and I had afterwards the fullest conviction that it must be one. Mr. Bewly has lately observed the regular form of it by a microscope. My own eyes having always been weak, I have, as much as possible, avoided the use of a microscope.

The principle reason that made me question whether this green matter was a plant, besides my not being able to discover the form of it, was its being produced, as I then thought, in a vial close stopped. But this being only with a common cork, the seeds of this plant, which must float invisibly in the air, might have insinuated themselves through some unperceived fracture in it; or the seeds might have been contained in the water previous to its being put into the phial. Both Mr. Bewly and myself found, in the course of the last summer, that when distilled water was exposed to the sun, in phials filled in part with quicksilver, and in part with distilled water, and inverted in basons of quicksilver, none of this green matter was ever produced; no seed of this plant having been able to penetrate through the mercury, to reach the water incumbent upon it, though, in several cases, it will be seen, that these seeds diffuse and insinuate themselves, in a manner that is truly wonderful.

Without light, it is well known, that no plant can thrive; and if it do grow at all in the dark, it is always white, and is, in all other respects, in a weak and sickly state. Healthy plants are probably in a state similar to that of sleep in the absence of light, and do not resume their proper functions, but by the influence of light, and especially the action of the rays of the sun. This was the reason why no green matter was ever produced by means of mere warmth in my former experiments, and that in jars standing in the same exposure, but covered so that the light had no access to them, no pure air was collected, none of the green matter being then found in them.

This I verified most completely by covering the greatest part of a glass jar with black sealing-wax, which made it thoroughly opaque; and besides answering that purpose better than brown paper, as I made the experiment before mentioned, did not imbibe any of the water, and therefore did not promote the evaporation of it. To be able to observe whether any air was collected in these jars, or not, the upper part of them was not coated with sealing-wax, but had a thick movable cap of paper, which I could easily take off, and then inspect the surface of the water.

In order to satisfy myself as fully as possible with respect to this remarkable circumstance, I also made the following experiments, the results of which are, indeed, very decisive in favour of the influence of light in this case.

Having a large trough of water, full of recent green matter, giving air very copiously, so that all the surface of it was covered with froth, and jars filled with it, and inverted, collected great quantities of it, and very fast; I filled a jar with it, and, inverting it in a bason of the same, I placed it in a dark room. From that instant no more air was yielded by it, and in a few days it had a very offensive smell, the green vegetable matter with which it abounded being then all dead, and putrid.

Again, having filled a receiver with fresh pump water, and having waited till it was in a state of giving air copiously, I removed it into a dark room; and from that time the production of air from it intirely ceased. When I placed it again in the sun, it gave no air till about ten days after, when it had more green matter, the former plants being probably all dead; and no air could be produced till new ones were formed. ...

It appears from these experiments, that air combined with water is liable to be phlogisticated by respiration, and to be dephlogisticated by vegetation, as much as air in an elastic state, out of water. For fishes, as I shall observe, foul the air contained in the water in which they are confined, and water plants now appear to purify it. This is no doubt one of the great uses of weeds, and other aquatic plants, with which fresh water lakes, and even seas abound, as well as their serving for food to a great number of fishes.

1 "Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air," London, 1774, 1775, and 1777, 3 vols.; "Experiments and Observations Relating to Various Branches of Natural Philosophy; with a Continuation of the Observations on Air," London, 1779, 1 vol., and Birmingham, 1781 and 1786, 2 vols. An abridgment of the six volumes was published in three in 1790: "Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air, and other Branches of Natural Philosophy, connected with the Subject. In three Volumes; being the former six Volumes abridged and methodized, with many Additions. Birmingham, printed by Thomas Pearson," 1790.

2Alembic Club Reprints, No. 7, "The Discovery of Oxygen, Part I. Experiments by Joseph Priestley, LLD. (1775)," Edinburgh, 1901, contains the full version of Priestley’s work on oxygen. Alembic Club Reprints, No. 8, "The Discovery of Oxygen, Part 2. Experiments by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, (1777)," Edinburgh, 1901, should be consulted for Scheele’s work.

3 "Experiments and Observations ...," 1790, vol. 1, pp. 86–88; vol. 3, pp. 293–296, 304.


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Chicago: Joseph Priestley, "Section III. Of Dephlogisticated Air, and of the Constitution of the Atmosphere.," A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900 in A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900, ed. Henry M. Leicester and Herbert S. Klickstein (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1952), 112–125. Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=482NL8A1879K4AB.

MLA: Priestley, Joseph. "Section III. Of Dephlogisticated Air, and of the Constitution of the Atmosphere." A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900, Vol. 3, in A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900, edited by Henry M. Leicester and Herbert S. Klickstein, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1952, pp. 112–125. Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=482NL8A1879K4AB.

Harvard: Priestley, J, 'Section III. Of Dephlogisticated Air, and of the Constitution of the Atmosphere.' in A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900. cited in 1952, A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, pp.112–125. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=482NL8A1879K4AB.