Biographies

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier and modern chemistry

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier and modern chemistry

Antoine Lavoisier He was an important French chemist, biologist and economist, considered the father of modern chemistry

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier was born in Paris, France, on August 26, 1743. He is considered the creator of modern chemistry along with his wife, Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, who was also a scientist.

Both developed different studies on topics as varied as the oxidation of bodies, animal respiration, the law of conservation of mass (known as the Lomonosov-Lavoisier law), combustion, photosynthesis or air analysis, among many others.

Lavoisier was one of the main protagonists of the scientific revolution of the 18th century. It contributed to the consolidation of chemistry as a science, leaving behind ancient beliefs and superstitions such as alchemy.

Antoine Lavoisier is the father of the modern chemistry precisely because it was the first that addressed it as a science, interpreting and systematizing the previous knowledge, and using a meticulous methodology in its experiments, in which everything was measured and controlled.

Lavoisier clearly defined the concepts of element and compound: a element It is a substance that cannot be broken down into simpler ones by chemical processes, while a chemical compound It is made up of elements and it can be broken down. It caused the change of the old-fashioned terminology for a new nomenclature, rationalizing the names of elements and compounds according to a scheme that still exists. The four alchemical elements (air, earth, fire and water) disappeared and instead 55 chemical elements were established instead.

Its principle of conservation of matter, known as Lavoisier's Law, states that in a chemical reaction the amount of matter remains constant; that is, the total mass of the substances before (reactants) and after (products) of the reaction is the same.

In 1766 Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier received the gold medal of the French Academy of Sciences as a result of his essay on the best public lighting system for large cities. For this he did not hesitate to spend a lot of time isolated, practically in the dark, accustoming his pupils to be able to detect minimal differences in the intensity of various light sources.

Two years later he was elected a member of the Academy. He held numerous public positions, including the state address of the works dedicated to the creation of gunpowder in 1776, or that of a member of a commission to develop a weight system in the year 1789.

Lavoisier investigated the composition of water and called its components hydrogen and oxygen. Among his most important investigations are also experiments on the role played by air in combustion and the nature of it. Thus, he demonstrated that combustion is a reaction that involves the combination of a substance with oxygen. In this way the previous phlogiston theory was refuted.

In 1772 Lavoisier presented his conclusions, with special emphasis on the fact that when some substances, such as sulfur or phosphorus are burned, they weigh more as a result of the absorption of air that is produced. On the other hand other materials such as metallic lead lose weight instead of gaining it because they lose air.

Lavoisier distinguished a part of the air that does not combine in combustion (nitrogen) and another part that does, oxygen.

However, Lavoisier also developed other projects related to different themes, among which he highlighted his research on the phenomenon of animal respiration or fermentation. He studied the plant and animal processes in which there is gas exchange. Thus he discovered that animal heat is produced by the combustion of carbon compounds and that during a physical effort the animals increase their breathing rate because they need more oxygen for that combustion.

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, died in the guillotine on May 8, 1794, at age 50. The First French Republic "I didn't need scientists or chemists", according to the president of the court who condemned him for having worked in the collection of contributions. On this execution, the mathematician and astronomer Joseph Louis de Lagrange said: "A moment has been enough to cut off his head, but France will need a century to see another one that can be compared"And he was right.

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