Widely creditedas the “father of modern chemistry”, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was a French chemistand an important figure within the eighteenth century chemical revolution. He developed a theory of chemical elementreactivity and co-wrote the modern system for the language of chemicals. Antoine has with success undertaken and topped the work of interpretation and rationalizationof the scattered existing data. Thanks to a rigorousmethodology of quantitative measurements that he applied to his experiments,Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier definitively surpassed the ambiguous hypothesesinherited from alchemy and provided the basic ideas and principles of whichchemistry required most to become a new science.
Antoine-LaurentLavoisier was a French aristocrat who was important to the 18th centurychemical revolution and who had a large influence on the history of Chemistry. Born in Paris in 1743, Antoine-Lavoisier was directed towardshumanistic and juridical studies by his father, who supported Antoine’sinterests in the natural, experimental, and physicals sciences. He wasoverpowered by the charm of chemical experimentation and by the rigor for thenaturalistic classification: soon he devoted himself passionately to chemistryworking in his laboratory long in the furnace. In 1761 he began to takeprivate courses in chemistry, between 1763 and 1764 he made a naturalistic tripto France with the scientist Étienne Guettard performing the first scientificexperiments. In 1763 he obtained a law degree from Sorbonne University.
Lavoisier’s professional career took place in the financial and economic fieldshowever, as a natural philosopher, he had the main field of intellectualinterest in science, and chemistry. In 1768 he entered thefamous Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris and until his death played animportant role in the French scientific community of the time. Lavoisier began working on a process of combustion,respiration and oxidation of metal oxidization in 1772. Hisinfluential research helped discard the old general theories that dealt withthe illogical combustion principle referred to as phlogiston. He gave modern explanations to these processes. Hisideas regarding the nature of acids, bases and salts were more logical and organized.Lavoisier introduced a chemical element in its modern sense and demonstratedhow it should be enforced by composing the first modern list of chemicalelements.
His revolutionary approach has helped several chemistsunderstand the fundamental process of science and implement the scientificmethod. This turned out to be the turning point in scientific andindustrial chemistry. The Chemical NomenclatureMethod divides substances into components and compounds. Betweenthe elements they are the oxygen, the hydrogen and the nitrogen, whose classificationis due to Lavoisier, which they take part in the composition of the air and thewater, two of the four “elements” that from the old Greece and duringmore than two a thousand years had been conceptualized as simple substances. Sulfur,phosphorus and metals are also included among the elements, contrary to whatthe phlogiston theory established, while phosphoric and sulfuric acids, as wellas many metal oxides that were considered simple, were definitively classifiedas compounds. From 1772, speculation about the nature of the fourtraditional elements (air, water, earth and fire) led Antoine Lavoisier toundertake a series of investigations on the role played by air in combustionreactions.
Of the various experiments that he would do to clarifythe question, the first one with transcendental consequences focused on one ofthe substances that increased weight in the combustion: tin. Afterheating a tightly sealed container containing tin, Lavoisier found that theweight of the metal had not increased, however that the total weight of thecontainer and its contents had not changed. Similar experiments withmetals such as mercury and platinum and with other elements such as phosphorusand sulfur led him to establish a new combustion concept and to accuratelydescribe the nature of the air. From the previous work of Joseph Priestley , Antoine Lavoisier was able to distinguishbetween an “air” that is not combined with fuel after combustion ornitrogen and another that does, which he called oxygen. Theair, understood as one of the four elements, was not therefore a simple substance,but a mixture of two gases. The simple and rational expressions used these days bychemistry and its methodology of nomenclature derive in large part from theeffort developed by Lavoisier and a few of his associates from the hermetic orambiguous expressions that constituted the natural residue of a long period ofalchemist dreams and illusions.
Antoine Lavoisier organized meetings for this purposein his chemical laboratory in Paris. In 1787 the new method of chemical nomenclaturewas presented to the Academy of France, and a few years later,especially after the publication of the elementary treatise on chemistry by Lavoisier(1789), that instinctive and novel terminology triumphed completely. Lavoisieralso carried out research on fermentation and on animal respiration. From the results obtained afterstudying the gas exchange throughout the breathing process, in a series ofpioneering experiments within the field of biochemistry, he concluded thatrespiration is a type of oxidation reaction kind of life the combustion ofcoal, with which he anticipated the later explanations of the cyclic process ofanimal and plant life. Forthis work he had the help of another famous French scientist, Pierre Simon Laplace.
As a result of their studies on the heat changes that occur during chemical reactions,both scientists laid down one of the fundamental principles of thermochemistry. They both discovered that the amountof heat required to decompose a compound is equal to the amount of heatreleased during the formation of the compound from its elements. The revolution that the work of Antoine Lavoisier brought to chemistryallowed to establish the investigation of the laws of chemical combinations, asthe French chemist had taught, applying his rigorous methodology of quantitativemeasurements and using as a fundamental instrument the balance, but alsomeasuring volumes, pressures and temperatures. Regardless of the countlessdiscussions and controversies, his chemistry was able to advance and establish itselfthroughout Europe.
Lavoisier was and will continue being an important figure inthe world of chemistry. He has had a great impact on chemistry and has helped it becomewhat it is today. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier is and forever will be universallyknown as the father of modern chemistry.