(August 26, 1743 – May 8, 1794)

This was the greatest experimental chemist prior to Michael Faraday. He was incredibly prolific. Although a qualified lawyer, Antoine Lavoisier never practiced law. He devoted his time to chemistry, botany and mathematics. His math tutor (Nicolas-Louis de LaCaille) was an abbot and astronomy-enthusiast who imbued him with a lifelong interest in meteorology. But the magic of chemistry appealed to him more. He loved showing off his incandescent and colorful experiments to friends and acquaintances. But since he lacked a deep knowledge of chemistry, he depended on contemporaries, such as Joseph Priestley and Henry Cavendish, for ideas. He also communicated with other French professionals: using their clues to polish the knowledge he gained from private studies. His ability to learn fast and work diligently ensured that his collaborations brought him fame. Unlike Priestley and Cavendish, he was a well-to-do aristocrat who could finance expensive experiments repeatedly. And by so doing, he gained better insights, which enabled him to turn sketchy ideas into theories. A good example was his collaborative work with Priestley on oxygen. Carl Scheele first isolated the gas and informed Priestley. Priestley worked on it and informed Lavoisier. And with his greater resources, Lavoisier worked repeatedly on the newly discovered gas, thereby understanding its physical and chemical properties better than Scheele and Priestley did. Similar thing happened with hydrogen, after Cavendish isolated it. From being an enthusiast, Antoine Lavoisier quickly matured into a distinguished researcher who (among others) contributed to chemical nomenclature, stoichiometry, and the metric system.


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