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Priestley House Woes

June 8, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 23

The loss of a chemical shrine, the Joseph Priestley House, is a very real possibility unless action is taken now. This historic site, designated by ACS as a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 1994, is on a list of museums to be closed on July 1 by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) because of budget challenges facing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (C&EN, April 6, page 9, and June 1, page 32).

Priestley lived and worked at his home in Northumberland, Pa., after he left England (where he discovered oxygen in 1774). He discovered carbon monoxide in his American home, and the location has long been associated with ACS as a focal point for chemists and ACS-related activities. The Priestley house has hosted educational events for for a wide range of people since the 1870s. ACS's highest honor, the Priestley Medal, is named after him.

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House (FJPH) has launched a major effort to prevent the closing of this landmark. We suggest that concerned chemists (and others who recognize Priestley as a key player in early American science, political theory, philosophy, education, and religion) encourage ACS to support, with vigor, the rescue of Priestley House. Furthermore, it is crucial that ACS members and others contact PHMC (e-mail: and indicate their displeasure with PHMC's intended action.

FJPH, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, also asks concerned individuals and organizations to consider supporting our efforts. We can be reached at 472 Priestley Ave., Northumberland, PA 17857.

Amanda Kessler
William Simpson
William VandenHeuvel
Northumberland, Pa.



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