Friday, May 21, 2010

The Invention of Air

Today I want to talk about a book that I read over Christmas called The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. The book is about Joseph Priestley and the origins of modern chemistry (basically, Priestley started modern chemistry). What I find fascinating about the story is the interconnectedness between what Priestley accomplished and the people he associated with and the times in which he lived. I don’t know if he would have been able to accomplish what he did if those two factors were not in play. I will blog about connections and networks on Monday and Priestley’s life story is a testament to the power of interconnectedness. One of the ideas that comes from the book is how to use “conversations with self” to allow ideas to form and change over time. Writing ideas down on paper is a great way to remember them so you can go back and change them and adjust them to new frameworks and information. We spend so little time today as a society allowing ourselves to just sit and think. We believe that we always have to be entertained or working and we do not allow our own genius to develop. Einstein “Any man that reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking”. Now, I may disagree with the reading too much part of this quote, but not using our brains enough is an interesting point. Priestley and his colleagues would meet at a coffee house (Ben Franklin was part of this group while he lived in London) and discuss topics and debate ideas. The end result was a revolution in science. This is a fascinating book and I highly recommend it. I wrote a summary of the book and framed it for rural education leaders. One last interesting note, Priestley moved to the United States and is buried in Northumberland, PA.

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