Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier: The Father of Modern Chemistry

Lavoisier was born on Aug. 26, 1743, in Paris, France, about the time the French and Indian War started.
He was born into a wealthy family of French society, with a father in the Parliament of Paris, as an attorney.
After Lavoisier's mother's sudden death, he inherited a large fortune at the age of 5, and at the age of 11, he attended the College des Quatre-Nations (the College of Four Nations), in Paris.
He studied chemistry, botany, astronomy, and mathematics.
Soon later, he entered the School of Law, and at the age of 20, in 1763, he received his bachelor's degree, and the next year, his licentiate.
In 1771, Lavoisier, at 28, married a wealthy 13 year-old girl named Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, who, later on, wrote down notes and translated English documents to Lavoisier, including Kirwen's "Essay on Phlogiston", and Priestly's research.
One of Lavoisier's inventions that amazed me was the Metric system, which is a group of units that is used to make any kind of measurement, which is still used today.
Many of Lavoisier's experiments includes:
Combustion studies
Gunpowder commissions
Stoichiometry
Chemical nomenclature
and the Respiratio physiology

A dear friend, Pierre Simon Laplace, helped Lavoisier with many of these experiments.
One thing that interested me was that Lavoisier named two elements in our periodic tables: Hydrogen and *Oxygen*.
The name Oxygen means "acid producer".
Lavoisier took the Greek words "oxys" (meaning "acid" or "sharp") and "gignomei" (meaning "produce") and formed "oxygen".
He and many other chemists found that this substance is part of several acids.
Lavoisier incorrectly believed that oxygen was needed to make all acids.
In 1793, Lavoisier was forced to move from his house and laboratory at the time of the French Revolution, having been found a partner in a firm that collected many taxes for the government at the time of the Revolution.
Lavoisier and many other tax collectors were brought on trial on May 8, 1794.
The judge believed that (in French) "La Repulique na pas besion de seavants ne de chimists; le cours de la justice ne peute etre suspendu."
(Translation) "The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed."
Lavoisier, at 50, was guillotined that day.     
To this day, Lavoisier's name is all over France and America.  
One of the main "lycees" (high schools) and a street in France were named after him. His name is one of the 72 names of eminent French scientists, engineers and mathematicians inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
Lavoisier inspired me to study science and chemistry, and has helped me to know more about the science in life.

*Oxygen makes about a fifth of the air's volume. It is found in the earth's crust and in water.
100 lb. of the earth's crust contains 49 lb. of oxygen.
100 lb. of water contains 89 lb. of oxygen.
This kind of oxygen is not pure.
Almost half of the weight in most rocks and minerals is oxygen.
Oxygen has an atomic number of 8, and an atomic weight of 15.9994.
It will only liquefy up to 118.8 C.*

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