Antoine Lavoisier

The Man Behind the Oxygen Combustion Theorem

The Life of Lavoisier

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His Early Life

Lavoisier actually went to law school at College Mazarin at first, however Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille influenced and encouraged science in Lavoisier, and he kept it as a hobby even after law school. Before his big break with the oxygen combustion theory, he had some minor works like his paper on the chemical and physical properties of gypsum and his works and ideas of lighting in cities. Later in life he purchased a tax farm, and married Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze. Marie was actually a huge help in h Lavoisier’s work, and considered a chemist herself. She translated papers and theories from across the world, (she was a genius with language) and basically smoothed the edges of Lavoisier’s work-making it complete. Lavoisier surprisingly suffered a brutal execution by guillotine. He was a form of tax collector, and the blood thirsty protesters of the French Revolution of course, did not agree with this.

Experimental Design

  • Lavoisier used a collection of experiments involving the study of combustion of substances through the measurements of volumes of air and the weight of solids/residual air

  • He believed air was involved in combustion and decided acids contained air filled with various principles.

  • Defined water as oxygen combined with "inflammable air” or hydrogen. Oxygen gas wasn't the principle of acidity, instead he saw gases by a common caloric factor, or heat.

  • Throughout combustion, substances combine with the oxygen principle, and exert caloric from oxygen gas, this explained heat’s involvement.

  • Further experiments on animal respiration convinced him that respiration was a slow form of combustion.

The New Idea

Lavoisier and a few other chemist submitted a new program for the reforms of chemical nomenclature to Academy of Science in 1787. There was absolutely no rational system of chemical nomenclature at the time. This new idea had Lavoisier’s new oxygen theory of chemistry involved with it.

The Elements Include:

  • Light

  • Caloric (Matter of heat)

    • Oxygen

    • Hydrogen

    • Azote (Nitrogen)

  • Carbon

  • 17 Metals

  • 5 Earth (Mainly oxides of yet unknown metals such as Magnesia, Barite, and Strontia)

  • 3 Alkalies

    • Potash

    • Soda

    • Ammonia

  • Sulfur

  • 19 Organic Acids

  • Phosphorus

    • Hydrochloric Acid

    • Boracic Acid

    • Fluoric Acid

Experiments, Data, and Results

  • In the past the Phlogiston's Theory and Aristotle's ideas ruled the science world. The idea that fire is made up of the four elements: earth air, water, and fire. The idea that water was element was challenged by many scientists. They all conducted an experiment of synthesizing hydrogen and oxygen to form water but concluded around the theory of Aristotle. However, when Lavoisier did his experiment he noted that dephlogistated air (oxygen) and hydrogen were a compound to form water. This caused a major shift in the science field and the theory of Phlogiston and Aristotle.

Politics, chemistry and oxygen theory during the French Revolution

Source Citations

"Lavoisier apparatus." World of Scientific Discovery. Gale, 1999. Biography in Context. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

Hendry, Robin. "Antoine Laurent Lavoisier." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Gale, 2006.Biography in Context. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

"Antoine Laurent Lavoisier." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998.Biography in Context. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.