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Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (26 August 1743–8 May 1794), the "father of modern chemistry", was a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology. He named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783) and helped construct the metric system, put together the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature.


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Kabir Malkani

Kabir Malkani

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His great accomplishments in chemistry largely stem from the fact that he changed the science from a qualitative to a quantitative one.

Article: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier...
Source: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier...

Lavoisier showed that all substances can exist in the three stages of matter. However, he believed that these changes in state were the result of fire combing with matter. This "matter of fire" or "caloric" was weightless and combined with solid to form liquid and combined with liquid to form gas.

Article: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier
Source: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier

He eventually concluded that common air was not a simple substance. Instead, he argued, there were two components

Article: The Chemical Revolution
Source: The Chemical Revolution

Lavoisier devised a set of principles by which chemical compounds could be named by referring to the elements of which they were composed. He published his work in a treatise called Methods of Chemical Nomenclature, in 1787. Lavoisier's approach was so logical and straightforward that it was quickly accepted and remains the basis of naming chemicals to this day.

Article: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier
Source: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier

Lavoisier deduced that the pebbles had been smoothed by agitated water. He named the first kind of sediment pelagic beds, and the second kind of sediment littoral beds.

Article: Rocky Road: Antoine Lavoi...
Source: Rocky Road: Antoine Lavoi...

Lavoisier demonstrated with careful measurements that transmutation of water to earth was not possible, but that the sediment observed from boiling water came from the container. He burnt phosphorus and sulfur in air, and proved that the products weighed more than he original. Nevertheless, the weight gained was lost from the air. Thus he established the Law of Conservation of Mass.

Article: Lavoisier, Antoine (1743-...
Source: Lavoisier, Antoine (1743-...

Lavoisier suspected and later proved that the weight increase was a result of the metal combining with air. In 1777 Lavoisier presented his theory that combustion and related processes were reactions in which oxygen combines with other elements in a paper entitled Memoir on Combustion in General.

Article: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier
Source: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier

With his state-of-the-art weighing machine, Lavoisier showed that matter can move around from one form to another, yet it will not burst in and out of existence.

Article: Ancestors of E = mc2
Source: NOVA | Ancestors of E = m...

A few years later he married the daughter of another tax farmer, Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, who was not quite 14 at the time. Madame Lavoisier prepared herself to be her husband’s scientific collaborator by learning English to translate the work of British chemists like Joseph Priestley and by studying art and engraving to illustrate Antoine-Laurent’s scientific experiments.

Article: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier
Source: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier...

it was Lavoisier who discovered the true nature of respiration when he found that it was a process whereby oxygen is taken up by blood in the lungs.

He showed that respiration was a process of combustion, with the utilisation of oxygen and the production of carbon dioxide.

Article: Antoine Lavoisier
Source: Antoine Lavoisier

Lavoisier did, however, produce the first table of the elements which contained a large number of substances that modern chemists would agree should be classifies as elements. He published it with the knowledge that further research might succeed decomposing some of the substances listed

Article: Student Resources for Gen...
Source: The Atomic Theory

Just five years later, he was dead, sent to the guillotine in the Terror of the French Revolution. Clearly his countrymen hated his tax collecting more than they admired his science.

Article: Rocky Road: Antoine Lavoi...
Source: Rocky Road: Antoine Lavoi...

There he equipped a fine laboratory, which attracted young chemists from all over Europe to learn about the “Chemical Revolution” then in progress. He meanwhile succeeded in producing more and better gunpowder by increasing the supply and ensuring the purity of the constituents

Article: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier
Source: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier...

Things were easier in Lavoisier’s time. To show that respiration is combustion, he once packed a pig in ice and measured the amount of melt water that was produced by body heat.

Article: World Science Festival, t...
Source: The New York Times