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400 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY an enterprise, and not as of a quality or ornament" (Spedding, III, 477). If Professor Wallace were to go beyond the faculty psychology of Bacon, he would move on to a description of Solomon's House and delineate Bacon's new version, such as is contained in the New Atlantis. Perhaps in the future he will do for us this service, even as he has done for us the noteworthy one of investigatingBacon's faculty psychology. B~aTRa~ MORRIS University o] Colorado A Scientific Autobiography o] Joseph Priestley (17S8-1804). Selected scientific correspondence edited with commentary by Robert E. Schofield. (Cambridge, Mass., and London, Eng.: M.I.T. Press, 1967.Pp. xvi -t- 415. $13.50) Riots and revolution served to destroy most of his manuscripts and to drive Joseph Priestley into exile in the backwoods of rural America. Political disfavor and personal obstinacy powerfully combined to diminish his once-considerable scientific reputation, while Scottish common-sense philosophy sought to demolish his metaphysical system, and its threat to the established order of Society. Only among Unitarians did the intellectual reputation of this bright star of the Enlightenment continue to shine undimmed, and in post-Waterloo Britain Unitarians were scarcely a vital force. Priestley's considerable importance as scientist , theologian, and philosopher has thus been neglected for over 150 years. Now at last an acknowledged expert on eighteenth-century English science has set out to rescue at least one area of Priestley's reputation. Robert E. Sehofield has ransacked no less than thirty-three libraries spread over two continents in order to gather together and publish 180 letters that illuminate Joseph Priestley's scientific career. The resulting book is the product of great love, industry, and ingenuity, and the first fruits of more than a decade of research on Priestley's science. It is also a triumph of organization, and a delight to dip into or browse through. While shorn of irritating footnotes, each chapter includes ample commentary on and analysis of the letters reproduced. In addition the lay reader is given a thirty-odd page section containing brief biographies of the dramatis personnae of the correspondence, and the scholar is placated by a list of manuscript locations, a general bibliography, a bibliography of Priestley's scientific publications, and an ample index. Confronted with such riches, it seems churlish to criticize. And yet because this present work is but a step toward "the definitive study of Priestley as a scientist" on which he has embarked, Schofield will no doubt welcome friendly comment on his methods and interpretations. One minor irritation is that he nowhere states how many of the letters reproduced were previously unpublished, nor does he provide any clear guide to those many letters he has chosen not to include. Thus the serious Priestley scholar, while grateful for the present book, can neither ignore previous works nor, presumably, the manuscript sources of those thirtythree libraries that Schofield lists. Yet set against this minor irritation is the major virtue that here, for the first time ever, we have a full-length portrait of Priestley as a scientific thinker. Parting company with all that host of commentators who have seen Priestley's science, and especially his chemistry, as amateur, naive and without plan, Schofield is concemed to lay bare that underlying structure to which the profusion of theory and experiment all related. His important and novel thesis, tucked away in his commentary like so many of his illuminating remarks, is that "Priestley was not a chemist... [but] a natural philosopher in the English mechanistic tradition" deriving from Boyle and Newton. It was for this reason that Priestley, like Newton, thought "that a combination of electricity, chemistry, and optics might be a fruitful path to the understanding of the nature of matter." And it is in the light of this concern with the structure and properties of matter that Schofield orders and interprets Priestley's prolix and prodigious scientific output. The interpretation is strikingly successful, though only at the price of a too-easy assumption of the existence of an alien but homogeneous group, that of "the chemists." Again, this new interpretation does little to BOOK REVIEWS 401 solve...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 400-401
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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