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Antoine Lavoisier

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Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier Antoine Lavoisier known as the “Father of Modern Chemistry,” a French noblemen who made influential contributions to the world of both Biology and Chemistry. Lavoisier was a natural philosopher in the late 18th century, this was during the Chemical Revolution. He played a role in the conversion of Chemistry from a qualitative to a quantitative science. Some of his many contributions to Science include; the first chemistry book, extensive list of elements and naming Hydrogen, Oxygen and Carbon. Lavoisier made a vast mark on the world of Science resulting in advancements in better understanding the natural world. Lavoisier was born in Paris, France on August 26, 1743 to a wealthy Paris family. His father Jean-Antoine Lavoisier, was a Parisian lawyer in the Paris Parliament. He was married to Émilie Punctis, the daughter of an affluent family due to their butchery business. His mother died at the age of 5 and left him a large amount of riches. Through the ages 11 and 18 he attended school at Marzarin College, here he studied the general subjects. During his final two years he studied the sciences in depth, his interest in science was encouraged by geologist Jean-Étienne Guettard. This was a professor whom he had gotten close to, later on he would go on to collaborate with on a geological survey. Lavoisier was always interested in Science and Mathematics but instead influenced by his father he followed his family’s wishes and began his career in the study of Law. At age 21, after studying law for two years he obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1763 and a year later his license to practice as a lawyer. Although he decided not to do so and finally went after to pursue his passion of science.
Lavoisier began studying astronomy, geology and botany under the renowned scientist of his time. In the beginning of his independent research he applied his interest in chemistry to the study of gypsum, a geological sample. During his time of research and experimenting chemist began to focus more on quantitative measurements and rational nomenclature. Lavoisier showed inclination for quantitative measurements, this resulted in careful analysis and vast output from his research. During the year of 1764 along with receiving his practice license, he gave his first scientific paper, “Lighting the Streets of Paris.” He won a prize for this paper and along with his independent research it helped him with his admission to the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. He was elected to become a member in France’s elite scientific organization in 1768 at the age of 25, but he had to find something to financially support his pursuits. With the inheritance his mother had left he used a portion of it to buy a share in the Ferme Générale. This was a private French tax-collecting organization that collected money for the government, or “tax farmers.” Little did he know this would later come back to end his intellectual uprising and his life.
In the year of 1771 on December 16 he went on to marry a 13 year old girl named Marie-Anne Pierette Paulze, he was 28 years of age. She was the daughter of the co-owner of the Ferme Générale. With great interest in her husband’s intellect she took pursuit in becoming a helpful scientific college. Lavoisier’s wife became his translator, she learned English and translated a numerous amount of English scientific documents to French. She would also sketch most if not all of his experiments and help him in the laboratory. Marie was highly invested in Lavoisier’s studies, she developed a scientific mind and liked to take part in discussions. This was a happy marriage in which both shared an interest in scientific discoveries.Lavoisier’s breakthrough came in 1775 when he became further involved in public life. He was established a government position as one of four commissioners of the Gunpowder Commission. He moved his laboratory along with his residence to the Paris arsenal. This lab became a place where scientist who were interested in his experiments came to debate and experiment. There it stood for almost 20 years conducting important work in which he devoted his life to science.
During his studies in Paris he established that combustion was caused by a gas in the air that he referred as oxygen. Lavoisier’s combustion theory went against and departed from contemporary theory. Using another of his theories the Theory of Conservation of Mass, he was able to prove the Phlogiston theory incorrect. Phlogiston theory was they theory of how people explained the process of burning during this time. It was highly misunderstood and sometimes resulted in negative mass Lavoisier discovered that when you burn sulfur or phosphorus in air the results are acidic. He also noted that the weight of the sulfur and phosphorus was different than the initial weight. But the question left unanswered was what element was combined? In 1774 a scientist named Joseph Priestley visited Lavoisier about his discovery of the gas produced when he decomposed mercury oxide. Priestley called this gas dephlogisticated air, it supported combustion better than normal air. . Lavoisier did not believe in phlogiston therefore did not believe in dephlogisticated anything. He believed in combustion and respiration rather than the loss of phlogiston. He went on to name this element released by mercury oxide, Oxygen. He went on to conclude that the products are formed by burning phosphorus and sulfur in the air and then those elements reacting with oxygen. In 1777 he went on to correctly identify sulfur as an element. He concluded with thorough experiments that it could not be broken down into any simpler substances.
In 1778 Lavoisier went on to firmly establish the Law of conservation of mass. Although it was talked about earlier by other scientists it was not until Lavoisier independently discovered it that it was a set fundamental law of nature. Later on in 1783 Lavoisier discovered that water was not an element. He conducted an experiment in which he produced water by burning hydrogen with oxygen. This established that water was not an element but a compound. He then named Hydrogen meaning water former in Greek. Lavoisier published his Elementary Treatise on Chemistry in 1789, this is known as the first chemistry book. It was more in depth of his oxygen theory, listing the difference of a compound and element, including a list of elements. Then starting in 1791 Lavoisier was serving on the committee that developed the metric system of measurement.
During the French Revolution, beginning in 1789 all wealthy people and government workers were being threatened. Then in 1793 the French Academy of Sciences was ended by the revolutionaries. In 1794 Lavoisier was guillotined, he was tried and convicted a traitor because of his involvement with taxes. His contributions changed the entire field of chemistry altering the focus to elements and quantitative observations.

Works Cited

"Antoine Laurent Lavoisier The Chemical Revolution - Landmark - American Chemical Society." Antoine Laurent Lavoisier The Chemical Revolution - Landmark - American Chemical Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
"Antoine Lavoisier - The Father of Modern Chemistry." Rice Catalyst. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
"Antoine Lavoisier." Facts & Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
"Antoine Lavoisier." Famous Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
"Biographies for Kids." Biography for Kids: Scientist. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
"Lavoisier, Antoine (1743-1794) -- from Eric Weisstein's World of Scientific Biography." Lavoisier, Antoine (1743-1794) -- from Eric Weisstein's World of Scientific Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
"Lavoisier." Lavoisier. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.
"Lavoisier's Elements of Chemistry." Lavoisier's Elements of Chemistry. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

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