ALPHABETICAL BRAIN™ VOCABULARY
#8 OF THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL SCIENTISTS
#8 ANTOINE LAVOISIER
Life Dates: 1743-1794
REVOLUTION IN CHEMISTRY
Lavoisier was the founder of modern chemistry at the end of the 18th century. He explained how combustion involves oxygen and developed the idea of the element as a basic substance. This involved describing the Principle of the Conservation of Matter in chemical reactions. Also he recognized that oxygen reacted with metals to form oxides, and with non-metals to form acids. Rusting metal, decaying animal and vegetable matter, and burning wood are all examples of oxidation. And he recognized that combustion is the basic chemical process in respiration, in which oxygen from the air is absorbed while carbon dioxide is expelled.
In addition, Lavoisier is given credit for the discovery of the composition of water, since he was the first scientist to correctly identify the elements that compose water. Interestingly, other scientists in Britain, such as Joseph Priestley, Henry Cavendish, and James Watt, were doing similar experiments and Lavoisier had a Portuguese spy sitting in at some Royal Society meetings where they regularly discussed the latest discoveries that members were making.
In addition, he recognized the importance of quantitative analysis and spent huge sums of money on precision instruments. His work provided the foundation for the beginning of industry and capitalism, which involved the disintegration of the old order in France. His extreme ambition and fertile imagination had him thinking that he was establishing a whole new kind of science. And with his rhetorical skills, he was able to promote his discoveries and inventions.
The Scientific 100 by John Simmons (pages 45-49); Britannica Encyclopedia; and Wikipedia.
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