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Lavoisier

Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent

French chemist (1743-1794)

Lavoisier is regarded as the father of modern chemistry. By 1765, he was fully convinced of the erroneousness of Stahl's phlogiston theory of combustion. In a series of penetrating experiments that made consistent use of the chemical balance, he provided incontrovertible proof that combustion is a process that involves the combination of a substance with oxygen from the air.

While Lavoisier consistently applied his law of the conservation of mass (Lavoisier's Law), he was not actually the person who formulated it; it had already been used by a number of earlier researchers of natural phenomena.

On the basis of his chemical experiments, Lavoisier introduced the modern notion of chemical elements. He also explained the role of oxygen in breathing, and the derivation of the exhaled carbon dioxide.

In 1787, in collaboration with the French chemists Guyton de Morveau, Fourcroy and Claude Louis Berthollet, he established a binary chemical nomenclature based on the reactions between acids and alkalis, which he described in his Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789). He also showed that many elements can combine with oxygen in varying proportions, and that the strength of acids created by oxidation increase according to their oxygen content. As well as producing a theory of fermentation, he performed physiological and mineralogical research and made meteorological observations.

Due to his position as a tax-collector and his role in tax-farming under the ancien régime, he was guillotined in 1794.

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