The Power of the Air Pump

Joseph Priestly states at the beginning of Steven Johnson’s book The Invention of Air that the English hierarchy should fear air pumps and electrical machines. This seems like a strange thing to say because these items seem like very harmless things. The reason he says this though is because these inventions gave scientists, and Priestly in particular, tools to make much more accurate and groundbreaking discoveries. “Thus the air pump not only helped justify the study of air itself, but also enabled one of the great spectacles of the early Enlightenment science” (Johnson 75.) These items on their own are not groundbreaking discoveries but when they are correctly used they could lead to much bigger things. This is why he believes governments and major religious groups should fear these common inventions.

Johnson’s work does shed light on new technological research that holds social and political consequences. It seems every breakthrough in the scientific world is met with a lot of negative reactions. This can be seen throughout history as scientists have been hated and received large consequences for their discoveries. This can still be seen today as many of our generations groundbreaking discoveries and projects are met with many religious and political consequences. No matter the era many scientific discoveries are met with negative political and religious consequences.