Lavoisier's Air Composition Experiment, 1776
Contributor:Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo
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Dimensions:4650 x 2958 px | 39.4 x 25 cm | 15.5 x 9.9 inches | 300dpi
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Lavoisier showing fellow scientists his experiment which revealed the composition of air, 1776. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (August 26, 1743 - May 8, 1794) was a French chemist who is considered the founder of modern chemistry. He changed the science from a qualitative to a quantitative one. He is noted for his discovery of the role oxygen plays in combustion. He recognized and named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783) and opposed the phlogiston theory. Lavoisier helped construct the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature. He predicted the existence of silicon (1787) and was also the first to establish that sulfur was an element (1777) rather than a compound. He discovered that, although matter may change its form or shape, its mass always remains the same. His book Methods of Chemical Nomenclature of 1787 set the method of naming substances by their composition of elements, which is still used today. As the French Revolution gained momentum things changed drastically for him. He was branded a traitor by the Convention under Maximilien de Robespierre during the Reign of Terror, in 1794. He was tried, convicted, and guillotined on May 8, 1794, at the age of 50. A year and a half after his death, Lavoisier was exonerated by the French government. When his private belongings were delivered to his widow, a brief note was included, reading "To the widow of Lavoisier, who was falsely convicted". Engraving from "Vies des savants illustres" by Louis Figuier. This image has been color enhanced.