Priestley Pop

Priestley Puts the Pop in Soda Pop

This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was an English theologian, teacher, and natural philosopher who in 1794 settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he built a home complete with a chemical laboratory for carrying out his continuing work in science. Today the Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland County showcases his life and his work.

Most often recognized for discovering the element oxygen in 1771 while living in Calne, England, Priestley is also hailed for his description of the process of carbonation, for which the Royal Society awarded him its highly desired Copley Prize in 1773. Priestley's "sparkling" discovery is said by many to have led to the development of the modern soft-drink industry. In 1767, the first drinkable man-made glass of carbonated water was created by Priestley. The manufacture of soft drinks didn't begin until the 1830s, however, with the introduction of bottled soda water, some flavored with birch bark, dandelions, sarsaparilla, and fruit extracts. In 1861, the term "pop" was first coined. Root beer was mass produced by 1876, and in 1881, the first cola-flavored beverage was introduced. Eighteenth-century science has been translated into a twentiety-century institution, thanks to Joseph Priestley.


Joseph Priestley House, Northumberland, PA
The American home and laboratory of the discoverer of oxygen.

For Further Reading

pa-trail-of-history-cookbook-sm.gif Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook
Edited by Kyle R. Weaver, Diane B. Reed, and Fred Lauver
Forward by William Woys Weaver

Stackpole Books and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
joseph-priestley-toh.gif Joseph Priestley House: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide
by Alison Duncan Hirsch

Stackpole Books and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Priestley Pop