Antoine Lavoisier: The Father of Modern Chemistry

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) was a French chemist and a leading figure in the 18th-century chemical revolution. He is one of the paragons of science and is also known as the Newton of chemistry. He gave a whole new concept to the laboratory analyses and conducted many experiments. In short, he gave the basic concepts, methods, nomenclature, and equipment of modern chemistry.

antoine levoisierHe is called, the founder of quantitative chemical analysis in scientific communities and some believe him to be the founder of the science. He kept detailed notes on procedures, theory, and types of equipment which led to the framing of principles of modern-day chemistry.

In his book, ‘Trait lmentaire de Chimie’, published in 1789, Lavoisier suggested that chemical reactions may be considered as a closed system. This led to a breakthrough in science, named, the Law of conservation of mass, or as the French call it, the Lavoisier’s law. It states that “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. He also considered the universe to be a closed system.

There are many books published by Antoine Lavoisier, including;

  • Opuscules Physiques et Chimiques (1774)
  • Essays: Physical and Chemical (1776)
  • Essays on the Effects Produced by Various Processes on Atmospheric Air (1783)
  • (Traité Élémentaire de Chimie) Elementary Treatise of Chemistry (1789)
  • Elements of Chemistry (1789)
  • A Treatise on Air, containing new experiments and thoughts on combustion (1791)
  • The Edinburgh New Dispensatory (1791)
  • Essays, Physiological and Practical (1794)

In his books, he revolutionized chemistry by introducing new definitions and nomenclature of elements and compounds, their properties, and reactions. Before him, the chemistry discipline was not even considered a science, it was just a study of the legacy of Greek philosophers. Chemistry at that time consisted of Aristotle’s four elements (earth, air, fire, water) modified into modern-day elements with another famous concept of that time, the phlogiston.

Major Contributions in Chemistry

Antoine Lavoisier is the unanimously recognized father of modern chemistry. It is because of him, that chemistry is considered the central science, today.

  • Antoine Lavoisier introduced that a chemical element is a substance that could not be further decomposed. He actually proved the hypothesis of another scientist Robert Boyle, who stated this in 1661.
  • He, for the first time, gave the idea of elemental naming, on the basis of compositions.
  • He gave Lavoisier’s oxygen theory, which nullified the phlogiston theory. He related combustion to oxidation and rusting i.e. when metal gets rusted, it starts to gain weight instead of losing it.
  • In 1778, he introduced that breathable air is not an element but is a mixture of two gases.
  • In 1779, he gave a name to the gas that is responsible for combustion called oxygen (from Greek, acid-forming). The other gas was named Azote (a Greek word meaning no life). Later this gas was named nitrogen by another scientist, Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal.
  • He also discover, isolated, and named the ‘inflammable gas’, which later came to be known as hydrogen.
  • In 1783, he discovered that water is not an element but a compound. It contains one element (oxygen) that combines with metals to form metal oxides. The second element was ‘inflammable air’, now called hydrogen. He also identified the combustible component of air and called it ‘dephlogisticated air’.
  • He identified, and isolated carbon dioxide, and called it ‘fixed air’.
  • Lavoisier terminated the Empedocles, known as, the theory of four elements (water, earth, air, and fire). He gave the experiment that was an example of the fact, during transformation, there is no matter lost or gained. It is only transformed from one form to another. This way he formulated the famous law of conservation of mass.
  • He also terminated the Alchemist’s idea of transmutation.
  • He described different basic chemical reactions that helped tremendously in modern chemistry.
  • Lavoisier helped to design the metric system of weights and measures with the help of other two scientists.

His work was carried on by a British scientist, John Dalton. He combined Antoine Lavoisier’s and Joseph Proust’s work to examine atomic ratios as a function of their mass ratios. After a series of experiments and detailed analysis, he developed his own atomic model consisting of 12 elements.

Dalton's Atomic Symbols - Antoine Lavoisier Atomic model

During the political revolution of France, he was tried and convicted of “the conspiracy against the people of France”. On May 9, 1794, he was killed in this political intrigue of revolution.

Concepts Berg

Who is the father of chemistry?

Jabir Ibn Hayyan is regarded as the father of classical chemistry and Antoine L. Lavoisier is the father of modern chemistry.

What theory did Antoine Lavoisier discover?

  • Antoine Lavoisier discovered, identified, isolated, named, and formulated many principles of modern-day chemistry.
  • He gave Lavoisier’s oxygen theory. According to his theory, oxygen is responsible for combustion.
  • Lavoisier identified air to be a mixture, unlike ancient concepts where it was regarded as an element.
  • He identified water to be a compound, unlike ancient concepts where it was regarded as an element.
  • He gave many other important laws and directions that led to a revolution in chemistry.

What elements did Antoine Lavoisier discover?

There are a lot of elements that he discovered but his major discoveries were hydrogen and oxygen.

What type of scientist was Antoine Lavoisier?

Antoine Lavoisier was a French chemist known as the father of modern chemistry. He was originally from bourgeois, a noble French family. He was an important scientist in The Renaissance Era.

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