Ronald Blatchley portrayed chemist Joseph Priestly during a visit to Walnut Springs Middle School.
Walnut Springs advanced 6th and 7th grade science and social studies students were treated on January 20 to a presentation by Ronald Blatchley, a reenactor of chemist Joseph Priestly. He shared, “Joseph Priestley is probably the most famous person you don’t know.” As an explorer of chemistry, Priestley identified more gases than any other scientist but also worked with electricity and other sciences.
Blatchley is a former chemistry teacher from Northumberland, Pennsylvania where he taught at Mifflinburg High School for 32 years until he retired in 1999. As a reenactor, he is widely known for his portrayal of Joseph Priestley and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and in Priestley’s native England. He has also been giving presentations for more than 30 years at the Joseph Priestley House Museum in Northumberland, Pennsylvania.
During his talk at Walnut Springs, Blatchley showed students experiments that led to Joseph Priestley identifying oxygen, carbonation, carbon dioxide, laughing gas, carbon monoxide, and more, including erasers. He also discussed that in the latter part of the 1700s and early 1800s, Priestley was good friends and sharer of scientific ideas with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, as well as almost all well-known people of the time. Through the course of Blatchley’s presentation, students received a science and history lesson, and also observations applicable to the Invention Convention, since Priestley also invented the equipment he used to discover gases.