On This Day In Chemistry

August 1st

British polymath Joseph Priestley first prepared oxygen (O) on this day in 1774

He used a magnifying glass to focus the sun's rays on a sample of mercury(ll) oxide (HgO) to discover that heating this compound produced a gas, oxygen (O2). In this environment a mouse could live four times longer than normal. Theories based on Priestley's work underpin modern chemistry.

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