To summarize Antoine Lavoisier’s contributions to modern chemistry in one sentence could most probably be “Lavoisier revolutionized chemistry with the balance”.
It was him who, by systematic and intelligent usage of good balances, introduced chemistry as an exact science that from now on could turn from its mystic alchemical past to the well defined and modern approach we know today .
Lavoisier was born in 1743 in Paris and during his lifetime could sample events like the beginning of industrial production of sulphuric acid (1747), the construction of the first lightning conductor by Benjamin Franklin (1752), the invention of cement and the birth of Mozart (both in 1756) or the American declaration of independence (1776) .
During his entire life his main job was tax collector, however, and he performed his chemical research just in his spare time, where he very disciplined worked in his private chemical laboratory exactly from 6 to 8 am and from 7 to 10 pm each day.
His young wife Marie Anne Paulze – who he married in 1771 when she was only 14 years old – helped him selfless and even learned English to enable him to discuss his ideas with the “great” researchers from the English speaking parts of the world Priestley, Jefferson and Franklin.
Unfortunately, Lavoisier got more and more unpopular because of his tax collecting activities and finally was arrested and sentenced to death by Guillotine during the French Revolution . A legend says that, when he was finally killed on May, 8th in 1794, he concluded his life with one last experiment by testing how many times he cold still blink his eyes once his head was cut off his body.
Whether true or not, there are reports that he could blink 11 times … However, French mathematician Joseph Lagrange, who was present at Lavoisier’s decapitation commented this tragic event with the famous words “They only need a second to take his head, but a hundred years might have to pass until a similar head will grow again” .
Antoine Lavoisier’s contributions to chemistry are numerous and more than valuable. Already with his first published experiments – in 1764 he demonstrated that when he carefully heated gypsum and collected and weighed the released water, that this water was exactly the amount that was previously added to get the right consistence of gypsum – he could found a fundamental chemical principle that is valid until today.