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Antoine Lavoisier was a French Nobleman and Chemist. He is considered the Founder of Modern Chemistry. He is most noted for his discovery of Oxygen and Hydrogen, and showing how they combined to form water. He helped continue the transformation of chemistry from a qualitative science into a quantitative one. He wrote the first textbook of chemistry – The Elements of Chemistry – in 1787. Unfortunately, he was falsely convicted and executed with other financiers during the revolutionary terror in 1794.
See the fact file below for more information on the Antoine Lavoisier or alternatively, you can download our 30-page Antoine Lavoisier worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Early Life and Education
- Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier was born in Paris, France on August 26, 1743.
- The first and only child of Jean-Antoine Lavoisier and Émilie Punctis, Antoine came from an aristocratic and wealthy family. His father was a lawyer in the Paris Parliament. His mother’s wealth came from a butchery business.
- At the age of 5, upon the death of his mother, Antoine inherited a large fortune.
- At age 11, Antoine studied general subjects at Collège des Quatre-Nations, a college of the University of Paris.
- In his last two years at the University, he developed an interest in Science – he studied astronomy, botany, chemistry, and mathematics under the great scientists of the time.
- During his Philosophy class, his Philosophy teacher, Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (French astronomer and mathematician), had influenced Antoine’s love for meteorological observation.
- To fulfill his father’s dream, at the age of 18, he entered the school of law and was awarded bachelor’s degree in 1763.
- Étienne Condillac, a prominent French scholar, philosopher, and epistemologist had influenced Lavoisier’s passion for chemistry.
- Guillaume-François Rouelle introduced Lavoisier to natural sciences like chemistry.
- In 1764, he obtained a license to practice as a lawyer.
Marriage And Administrative Career
- In 1764, he published his first scientific paper, dealing with the properties of the sulfate mineral, ‘gypsum’. He read his first paper to the French Academy of Sciences.
- In 1766, he published an essay on the problems of urban street lighting in which he was awarded a gold medal by the King Louis XV.
- In 1767, Antoine worked on a geological survey of Alsace-Lorraine in collaboration with Jean-Étienne Guettard.
- In 1768, at the age of 26, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences. In that same year, he worked on the first geological map of France.
- Lavoisier purchased the General Farm, a financial enterprise that had a contract with the royal government to collect certain sales and excise taxes.
- Lavoisier, as a Tax Farmer, lent money to the government and was subsequently reimbursed through tax collections.
- In 1771, he married Marie Anne Paulze, the 14-year-old daughter of a member of the Farm.
- Lavoisier and Marie Anne had no children, and they were able to devote their time on research and scientific works.
- Marie Anne, as an English Master, was able to help Lavoisier translate chemical works and research into French, including Richard Kirwan’s Essay on Phlogiston and Joseph Priestley’s research.
- Marie Anne illustrated, noted, and compiled records of Antoine’s laboratory research and articles. She even carved engravings on the laboratory instruments used by Lavoisier scientific works, in which she was soon regarded as a valuable laboratory assistant and hostess for her husband.
- From 1775 to 1792, he served as a director of the French Gunpowder Administration and established a uniform system of weights and measures for the metric system.
- Lavoisier trained Éleuthère Irénée du Pont in the formation of the Du Pont gunpowder business. It became a source of revenue for the French government.
- Éleuthère Irénée du Pont launched Le Republicain and published Lavoisier’s La Correspondance Patriotique.
- In March 1791, Lavoisier recommended the adoption of the metric system. It was soon adopted by the Convention on August 1, 1793.
Lavoisier contributions to Science and Chemistry
- Onxygen Theory of Combustion
- In 1772, Lavoisier found out that when phosphorus or sulfur are burned in air, the products produce the acid spirit of phosphorus, and that the phosphorus weighed more than the original phosphorus when burned.
- Lavoisier discovered the process known as Calcination: when metals were burnt, they slowly change into powders, and when the powders were “reduced” to a metal, a loss of weight occurred.
- In 1774, Joseph Priestley an English Chemist told Lavoisier about how mercury oxide supported the combustion much more powerfully than normal air.
- In 1777, Lavoisier carried out extensive experiments involving oxygen and, therefore identified that sulphur was actually an element.
- In 1778, with Priestley, Lavoisier discovered mercury oxide. He did some experiments in which he identified the gas that was released by the mercury oxide is called oxygen, the generator of acids.
- In 1779, Lavoisier found out the oxygen is made up of 20 percent of air, which plays a major role in combustion and respiration.
- “Sulfur, when burning, absorbs oxygen gas; the resulting acid is considerably heavier than the sulfur burned; its weight is equal to the sum of weights of the sulfur burned and the oxygen absorbed.”
– Antoine Lavoisier
- In the area of respiration physiology, Lavoisier and Laplace conducted an experiment on a guinea pig. Now, to measure the amount of heat given off during combustion or respiration, they used an apparatus called a Calorimeter. In the same interval, they measured the amount of carbon dioxide.
- During their experiment, when sufficient carbon was burned in the Calorimeter a similar amount of heat was produced. Both concluded that respiration was similar to slow combustion. Thus, respiration is a form of combustion.
- It showed that respiration was essentially a slow combustion of organic material using inhaled oxygen.
- Their experiment accounted for the puzzling phenomenon of animal heat.
- The Law of Conservation of Mass became established when Lavoisier independently discovered in 1773, that during chemical reactions mass in an isolated system was neither created nor destroyed.
- The mass of the products in a chemical reaction are equal to the mass of the reactants.
- Forms of Carbon
- The forms of carbon supported Lavoisier’s theory of the Law of conservation of Mass.
- During his experiment, the same gas was produced whether diamond or charcoal were burned by the giant lens. He thus discovered that diamond is a crystalline form of carbon. Through this, he introduced the possibility of allotropy in chemical elements.
- Joseph Black’s “fixed air”
- In 1774, Lavoisier published a book entitled ‘Opuscules physiques et chimiques’ (‘Physical and Chemical Essays’). His textbook, detailed his research on Joseph Black’s (Scottish physician and chemist) fixed air.
- Joseph Black concluded that mild alkalis are comprised of fixed air. Black had shown that fixed air was different from the air that we breathe and is a distinct chemical species know today as carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Lavoisier, with his extensive research with Joseph Black’s fixed air, concluded that the same “fixed air” was emitted when metals were burnt along with charcoal in the absence or limited supply of oxygen, a process known as calcination.
- Water is not an element but rather a compound
- Lavoisier worked with Pierre-Simon Laplace and they burned hydrogen with oxygen, and water was produced. With this experiment, they concluded that water is a compound made from the elements hydrogen and oxygen.
- To further support their discovery, Lavoisier noted that water by weight was about 15% hydrogen and 85% oxygen which means water contain 5.6 times more oxygen by weight than hydrogen.
- Chemical Nomenclature
- In 1787, Lavoisier with his fellow chemists Antoine François, de Fourcroy, Claude-Louis Berthollet, and Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau introduced a new system to the Academy of Sciences titled Méthode de nomenclature chimique (Method of Chemical Nomenclature, 1787).
- The Aristotle Classical elements of earth (both cold and dry), air (both hot and wet), fire (both hot and dry), water (both cold and wet) and aether as the quintessence had been discarded by the medieval alchemist; however, Lavoisier discarded the medieval alchemist tria prima of sulfur, mercury, and salt.
- He listed as elements the 55 substances which could not be decomposed into simpler substances by any known chemical analysis. On their basis of chemical properties, he grouped them into four categories:
- Simple Substances – considered as the element of bodies (gases) which includes light, fire, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.
- Oxidable and Acidifiable simple metallic bodies (metals) which includes the antimony, silver, arsenic, bismuth, cobalt, copper, tin, iron, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, gold, platina, lead, tungstein, and zinc.
- Oxidable and Acidifiable simple substances not metallic (nonmetals) which includes carbon, sulfur, phosphorus, and the unknown radicals – muriatic acid, boric acid, and fluoric acid.
- Salifiable simple earthy substances (earths) which includes the magnesia, barite, stronita, alkaline, and aluminum.
- Elementary Treatise on Chemistry (the first modern chemical textbook)
- In 1789, Lavoisier published his Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, a textbook which explains his oxygen theory of chemistry and the law of conservation of mass. It denied the existence of phlogiston, detailed the difference between a compound and an element, and contained his theories about chemistry.
- In Lavoisier’s textbook, he listed as elements the 55 substances which could not be broken down into simpler substances by any known chemical analysis.
- The elements included the Antimony, Arsenic, Bismuth, Cobalt, Copper, Gold, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Mercury, Molybdenum, Nickel, Platina, Silver, Tin, Tungstein, Zinc, Oxygen, Azote, Hydrogen, Sulphur, Phosphorus, Charcoal, Muriatic Radical, Flouric Radical, Boracic Radical, Lime, Magnesia, Barytes, Argill, and Silex.
Chemical Revolution and Legacy
- Lavoisier detailed measurements and conscientiously kept balance sheets throughout his experiments. Research was crucial to the acceptance of the law of conservation of mass.
- Lavoisier’s binomial system’s new terminology marks the dramatic changes in the field which is referred as the chemical revolution.
- His theory of combustion gained support in which the campaign to reconstruct chemistry according to its percepts began in 1785.
- The Chemical Nomenclature was accepted in 1787.
- The oxygen theory replaced the idea of phlogiston theory (a hypothesized fire-like element released during combustion).
- Lavoisier’s research in physical chemistry and his joint experiment with Pierre-Simon Laplace (a French astronomer and mathematician) on thermodynamics measured the specific heat evolved per unit of carbon dioxide produced, finding the same ratio for a flame and animal, indicating that animals produced energy by a type of combustion reaction.
- In 1783, Lavoisier and Laplace published their joint paper entitled The Memoir On Heat, a textbook which detailed the kinetic theory of molecular motion.
- Lavoisier introduced the possibility of allotropy in chemical elements.
- Lavoisier was responsible for the construction of the gasometer. He widely used the gasometer in his research on combustion and “phlogiston”.
- With his creation of smaller and cheaper gasometer that worked with adequate degree of precision, it helped the chemists create more experiments and is still widely used today.
- He gave much detailed and correct explanation on Black, Priestley, and Cavendish.
- In May 1, 1791, Ferme générale – which was commissioned by Lavoisier – was abolished.
- Lavoisier resigned from his post at the Gunpowder Commission and focused on his laboratory and scientific research.
- In August 8, 1973, Lavoisier learned that all Academic Societies, including the Academic of Sciences, were subdued at the request of Henri Grégoir, a French Roman Catholic Priest and French Revolutionary Leader.
- On November 24, 1793, Lavoisier as one of 28 French collectors faced with nine accusations of defrauding the state of money owed to it. Lavoisier and the other Farmer General members was branded as traitors by the French revolutionists.
- The 28 French collectors were arrested for plunder and adulteration of tobacco, accusing Lavoisier of making the tobacco’s quality worse by adding water to it.
- On May 8, 1794, at the age of 51, Lavoisier and his 27 co-defendants were convicted and executed in Paris.
- After his death, the mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange expressed Lavoisier’s importance to science.
- “It took them only an instant to cut off this head, and one hundred years might not suffice to reproduce its like.”
– Joseph-Louis Lagrange
- A year and a half after his death, during the White terror, his private belongings were delivered to his widow accompanied by a brief note stating: “To the widow of Lavoisier, who was falsely convicted.”
Antoine Lavoisier Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Antoine Lavoisier across 30 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Antoine Lavoisier worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a Antoine Lavoisier who was a French Nobleman and Chemist. He is considered the Founder of Modern Chemistry.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Lavoisier Facts
- Lavoisier Timeline
- Table of Elements
- Professional Career
- Lavoisier Influencers
- Contributions on Science & Technology
- Chemical Revolution
- Lavoisier Impacts on Society today
- Quotes Analysis
- Lavoisier Acrostic Poem
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