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Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen. Oil painting by Ernest Board, 1912.

  • Board, Ernest, 1877-1934.
  • Pictures

Selected images from this work

About this work


Priestley (1733-1804), radical politician, chemist and Nonconformist minister, is portrayed playing backgammon in his house in Birmingham when he received the news that it was about to be attacked by an anti-radical mob. The attacks took place on 14-16 July 1791, and the library, furnishings and equipment represented in the present painting were all destroyed. Priestley himself fled to Hackney

On the back wall is an indistinct portrait of a man wearing a sash. Priestley, seated on the left, holds what looks like a jeweller's eyeglass. Behind him is a machine for experiments with gases (an airpump?). On the right a man enters the room with news of the rioters



Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 61.5 x 91 cm

Creator/production credits

Commissioned by Henry S. Wellcome for the Wellcome Gallery of Portraits, 1912

References note

Handbook of the Historical Medical Museum organised by Henry S. Wellcome, London 1913, p. 23, no. 61 ("Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen (1733-1804) – [Ernest Board] "Dr. Priestley and his wife, while engaged in a game of backgammon, were warned by a friend of the approach of the mob, which afterwards broke into his house at Birmingham and destroyed his manuscripts, books and philosophical apparatus.")


Wellcome Library no. 45903i

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