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Top Astronomer to Give Public Lecture on Joseph Priestley

Professor David Williams, Emeritus Perren Professor of Astronomy at University College London, will visit Armagh on Thursday 24th February 2005 to give a public lecture "Lessons from Joseph Priestley". The lecture, which is held under the auspices of the Armagh Natural History and Philosophical Society, is free of charge and open to all members of the public. It will be held in the Armagh County Museum, The Mall, Armagh, and will begin at 8.00pm.

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was one of the eighteenth century's most enlightened thinkers, regarded by some as the "father" of chemistry. As well as being a noted scientist and the discoverer of oxygen (called "de-phlogisticated air"), he was an influential political writer and philosopher, and a famous English Unitarian. He was also a principal figure of the Enlightenment, believing that science, religion and the arts were not separate endeavours, and saw science as an exploration of the complexity of creation - and therefore a religious activity.

Professor Williams's astronomical interests focus on the origin of stars, interstellar dust and the chemistry of the interstellar medium. He is a former President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was awarded an OBE for his scientific work. Lately, he served on a three-person Task Force set up by Lord Sainsbury to advise the Government on the risks to civilization posed by collisions of comets and asteroids with the Earth.

The lecture will review Priestley's life and works, and illustrate the many connections between modern astronomy and Priestley's science, and the relevance of his achievements and beliefs to the modern age.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Bailey or John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; e-mail: mebarm.ac.uk or jmfarm.ac.uk; and Jill Armstrong, Events Secretary, Armagh Natural History and Philosophical Society, Tel.: 028-3752-4923: e-mail: edwardthedeanshill.freeserve.co.uk.

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Last Revised: 2005 February 14th
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