NORTHUMBERLAND - A child visiting the Joseph Priestley House once asked, "What did people breathe before Dr. Priestley discovered oxygen?"
The answer is that air already contains oxygen, which the English scientist isolated and identified while doing experiments in his laboratory in 1774. Priestley also was the first to observe that plants produce the oxygen that we breathe.
Some 240 years have passed since Priestley's accomplishment. Aug. 3 will be Oxygen Day at the Joseph Priestley House, 472 Priestley Ave. A living history interpreter portraying Dr. Priestley will present free programs on Priestley's discovery. The program, suitable for all ages, will be presented twice, at 1:30 and 3 p.m. in the Pond Building on the grounds.
Joseph Priestley was the renowned scientist, political thinker and dissenting clergyman who lived in Northumberland from 1794 to his death in 1804. Best known for discovering oxygen, Priestley is credited with isolating eight gases.
Portraying Joseph Priestley will be Ronald Blatchley, a retired chemistry teacher who has been interpreting the British scientist for more than 30 years and who has given presentations on Priestley in the U.S. and England. He will explain and demonstrate chemistry discoveries of the 18th century.
Priestley House will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. with free admission, and visitors may tour the late-18th century Georgian house at their own pace and visit with guides wearing 18th century dress who will greet them and answer questions.
The Friends of Joseph Priestley House is a nonprofit membership organization established in partnership with the state Historical and Museum Commission. Its purposes are to promote interest in Joseph Priestley and his work, and to research and restore the Joseph Priestley House. To accomplish these purposes, the Friends provides educational programming and holds fundraising activities.
Members receive free admission to Joseph Priestley House, discounted rates at special events and 10 percent discounts on purchases made at the gift center. The Friends always are seeking additional volunteers to staff the visitor's center and conduct tours of the Priestley House Museum.
For more information, call 570-473-9474 or visit www.josephpriestleyhouse.org.