Born: Paris, August 26, 1743
Died: Paris, May 8, 1794
|"A moment was all that was necessary to strike off his head, and probably a hundred years will not be sufficient to produce another like it." - Lagrange
Lecoq De Boisbaudran
Lavoisier was born into a wealthy family and was given an excellent education. He attended lectures on astronomy but became more and more interested in science. From the very beginning of his chemical researches, he recognized the importance of accurate measurement, and for this reason Lavoisier is often called the father of modern chemistry. |
In the 1760s Lavoisier worked on improving methods of lighting towns, and in the 1770s, created new methods for the manufacture of saltpetre, used in the making of gunpowder. He later worked in agriculture, and significantly improved farming methods.
Lavoisier began to experiment with heating things in air to observe their reactions. He measured his results and made notes on diamonds, phosphorus, sulfer and other compounds. He was the first to discover that air consisted of two gases, one of which supported combustion and one which did not. The former he called oxygen and the latter he called azote (from the Greek meaning "no life"). This gas was later renamed nitrogen.
In collaboration with other chemists, Lavoisier published a book entitled Methods of Chemical Nomenclature in 1787. This landmark text established the principle whereby every substance could be assigned a name based on the elements of which it was composed. This simple and logical system was quickly adopted by chemists everywhere, and still forms the basis of modern chemical nomenclature. He went on to publish another book, An Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, differentiating between light and heavy elements, and which is recognized today as the first modern chemical textbook.
The work of Lavoisier contributed greatly to the efforts of later chemists, such as Berzelius, Avogadro and Mendeleev.
Ironically, in the same year as his textbook was published, Lavoisier was guillotined in the French Revolution. Within two years of his death, the French people were unveiling busts of Lavoisier to commemorate his achievements .