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Antoine Laurent Lavoisier

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was a prominent French aristocrat whose immense contribution in the areas of chemistry and biology provided the way to modern chemistry and science. He was the first person who produced a list of elements found in nature.

Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was the person who founded the major constituent of our planet and named it as 'Hydrogen' in the year 1783 and acknowledged it was the major component of water. Five years earlier, he also discovered the most important element of our earth and named it as 'Oxygen' in the year 1778. In 1777, he established 'Sulfur' as an element rather than a mixture of various elements. Because of immense contribution in reforming the nomenclature system of chemical elements, he is still known as the 'father of modern chemistry.'

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was born in a wealthy family of Paris on August 26, 1743 and he was a student of College Mazarin from 1754 to 1761 where he studied, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics and botany. At the age of 28, he married Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze in the year 1771 when she was just 13 years old. Marie-Anne also developed interest in chemistry and helped her husband as a colleague by translating important English documents in French. She also wrote and published a biography of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier by the name Lavoisier's memoirs.

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier not only discovered and named Oxygen he also demonstrated the process of rusting and the importance of oxygen for the life of animals and plants by establishing role of Oxygen in respiration. He was one of the first chemists who performed some completely quantitative chemical experiments to give birth to stoichiometry. He was the first to establish the law of conservation of mass. With the help of one of his truly quantitative chemical experiments, he established that animals use oxygen as a respiratory gas and the respiratory gas exchange is a process of combustion that produces heat and is similar to the process of burning of a candle.

Apart from his role as chemist, botanist and physicist, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier also achieved a law degree. However, he never practiced law in his entire life. Being a powerful member of Ferme Generale, he was one of the 28 tax collectors of France and during the French revolution he suffered the wrath of French revolutionaries.
While Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was a liberal in the actual sense, he suffered opposition from Jean-Paul Marat who was a supporter of revolutionaries.

At the height of French Revolution, Jean-Paul Marat accused Lavoisier of treachery in selling watered-down tobacco and many other crimes. In the year 1794, during the period of 'Reign of Terror' Antoine Laurent Lavoisier helped some foreign born scientists and mathematicians including Joseph Louis Lagrange and it was considered as treason.

The judge, who was hearing the case of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, rejected an appeal to forgive his life to support his incomplete experiments. The judge claimed, "The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed." On May 8, 1794, when he was 50 years old, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was guillotined in Paris.

Rumor Has It

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier tried to give hemorrhoids a place on the elemental periodic table (Hd) but the rest of the scientific community at that time either sat on their butts or said a few choice curse words about his outlandish claim.

Written by Kevin Lepton