Today we're revisiting the life of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, who was a chemist, biologist, geologist, physiologist, and economist. But at the end of the day, he's most often referred to as the father of modern chemistry.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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You know did all of this right in the middle of the french Revolution, which makes his life sort of notable Welcome to stuff you missed in history class from Housetop works, tat com, hello and welcome to the part tat unhappily Brad, I'm Tracy wealthy am the really interesting thing about the subject of today's package is how many labels he gets. So if you look, any biography on him. The internet will absolutely include some the nation of the words chemist biologists, geologist physiologist economist he even how the law degree, though he never practiced law but at the end day. This particular figure is most often referred to as a father of modern chemistry, and we referred to this person Is anyone was here before During our episode on Sophie Blanchard and the ballooning craze
He definitely deserves its own part cast because he was instrumental in transitioning the field. chemistry from one that was still back in alchemy. we'll thinking and the combination of science and magic and sort of x, amending and that arena to a much more serious and systematic way to end. Eyes and understand the world around us, and while he made credible contributions to science. His life also took some really important political turns amid the turmoil of the French Revolution City a lot of influence in very many different and seemingly disparate places throughout his life. yeah. I was startled to learn how many of the basic things that I learned in science class came straight from near. He was really impact form on our modern lives, whether we realise it or not. Yes, he was born and one neuron Lavoisier on August, twenty six, seventeen, forty three and he was born pretty well
a privilege. His father, John, in form of Austria, was a wealthy parisian lawyer and his mother was from a well to do family when he was far. I've, his mother passed away and left him a huge inheritance yacht, and why Father had originally been from a town roughly fifty miles northeast of Paris and IRAN was really born a Parisian, although he did in summer and his father's hometown, which was video today in the absence of his mother Lavoisier, is aunt. Constance became a significant caregiver and influence on his life. The two of them are said to have been extremely close and he attended the college to cut the national you'll sometimes see this referred to as the college Mozilla and while there he studied a straw. Me, mathematics, Botany Geology, mineral
Gee logic, chemistry and other disciplines. Under some of the most respected thinkers of the day. We eventually focused as education on pursuing a law degree primarily to please his family by following in his father's footsteps. He finished as law studies in seventeen. Sixty three He was licence to practise a year later, but he never really had a passion for law and he never practised. Instead, he went right back to his love of science, primarily chemistry and geology, and he published a paper one thousand. Sixty five addressing the problem of improving parisian street lights as other earliest work, which he submitted to the Academy of Sciences was an analysis of gypsum in plaster Paris and then
Early early work that he was doing is still considered important work regarding the composition of cement. So already we establish that he he is impact is still felt very significantly today there in seventeen sixty eight, while he was still only twenty five Lavoisier was inducted Do the Elite Academy of Sciences. This was a big year for the year because he also bought an interest in La Farram general analysed. general was a private company. That's the truth. It's a farm general and they actually collected taxes for the french sovereign, so they would go out and do the tax collecting and make a profit out of it as they handed off the taxes to the the government, and so, while his by into this group, solidified his fiscal standing, and it was real
helping him. You know, fund his life and his experimentation. It made him part of an organisation that was not exactly popular with those not born and privilege, especially when you consider the political climate in France at the time near, as is often the case with really predominates, and civic thinkers. He had a personality that you might call distinctive an hour,
their Donovan's book and swam Lavoisier science, administration and revolution, the legendary scientist, as described as being something of an obsessive and to illustrate this Donovan, tell stories about things. Lavoisier did when he was very young and sort of starting out in his scientific experimentation, and he talks about him at nineteen doing this in experiment where he wanted to investigate the effects of diet on human health and as part of this experiment, he adopted a plan of consuming nothing but milk. I, like milk, but only milk, is a little far in a similar episode to study illumination as part of work. He was doing about street lamps. He propose this plan to shut himself up in a dark room for six weeks straight, so that you can make himself intensely sensitive to different levels of light. There's no evidence about whether he actually followed through I'm, not one. Who is its clear that, like many ground breaker throughout history,
Lavoisier really did have this propensity for approaching problems and ideas with really extreme methodologies. On December, sixteenth, seventeen, seventy one, a few years after his induction into the Academy of Sciences, Lavoisier married Marie Anne Pierre, it Paul's he was only thirteen at the time while such a young bride is enough, link concept, particularly to modern ears. Marie Anne was really a very, very smart woman and she became an important collaborator till it was here by all accounts. It was quite a happy marriage and certainly, I think, more of an equal said then many marriages at the time Marine actually learned English just so that she could translate scientific texts for her husband and she also educated herself in art and engravings. So she can illustrate his scientific papers and she assisted him in his experiments throughout the year, and she often took note
while he was working, and he really depended on those notes as lake the basis for his writing. So she was really important and they really did seem to have a really good marriage where they were collaborating all the time in seventeen. Seventy five. He got an appointment to the royal gunpowder and saltpetre administration, referred to is just the gunpowder administration. This branch of the government had been established by Louie, the sixteenth after he ascended the throne in seventeen. Seventy four and came to realize that France didn't really have in any kind of self sufficient sourcing for gun powder and so Lavoisier had been appointed because he was a kid. and he moved into the Paris Arsenal any set up a lab that was so well acquainted that throughout the years media this lab for a couple of decades, many of Europe's finest chemists and great thinkers were attracted to it. So it kind of became this interesting little in clay where people could go and experiment and think and trade ideas
working in this, then state of the art lab of what he was able to act to advance the production of gun powder to a point where he was making much better quality products at a very rapid pace, and he was able to refine the composition of and powder by analyzing, in regulating the purity of its ingredients, those primary ingredients being sulphur charcoal and potassium nitrate, a key saltpetre, and he also refine the regulation process. But before we get into some other, pretty big chemistry breakthroughs that happened in Lavoisier lab. Let's take a moment in time, answer this episode of stuff you missed in history class is brought to you by W W, formerly wait watchers. They have
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as every day and one full day every week in the lab, and he said to have treasure that one all day, research which I can complete identify with his wife is quoted as saying it was for him a day of happiness. Some
who shared his views and some young men proud to be admitted to the honour of collaborating in his experiments assembled in the morning in the laboratory there they launched their they debated. It was there that you could have heard this man with his precise mind his clear intelligence, his high genius, the loftiness of his philosophical principles, illuminating his conversation. Yes, a sheet again, it's kind of a nice representation of their relationship that she really spoke very highly of him and she clearly admired his his work in his mind and the way he worked, and it's just nice that he had this magical day every week that he felt like with his birthday and through his rigorous experimentation there. One of the big things that happened is that Lavoisier became convinced that mass is neither created nor destroyed during ordinary chemical reactions. This is big stuff. The massive substances produced by a chemical reaction is equal to the mass of the.
actors involved, and I will not pretend to have a particularly gifted chemistry mind. But most people will recognise this as what was eventually put forth by Lavoisier as the law of conservation of mass and said hugely important basic chemistry concept. Yes, Thank you because you, this concept, also led him to further examination of the work of english natural philosopher Joseph priestly, Marie Anne had translated a whole lot of priests, leaves work for Lavoisier and priestly had in seventeen. Seventy four heated red mercury side to obtain a colourless gas which would cause a candle that was lighted in it to burn with quote a remarkably vigorous flame according to priestly any referred to this colourless gas is Deef largest dictated air.
at the time. The prevailing belief in chemistry was that a substance called phlogiston was a volatile part of all combustible substances, and then it was released as flame during combustion. Phlogiston gets its name from the greek word for burn priestly thought that his pure enhanced respiration and caused the more vigorous and longer lasting burn of candles, because it was free of what Justin they travelled to Paris to meet with Lavoisier and discuss these findings, but wasn't he felt the phlogiston theory which had been around for more than a hundred years at this point was fundamentally flawed, and this was a very significant shake up in the scientific community. At the time, this is on a par with someone today, claiming that potassium as an illusion I mean it's. It was really like completely broke apart the fundamental base of how they chemistry and when Lavoisier dealt more deeply into analysis of combustion. He was able to identify
the same gas that priestly hand, which briefly, was calling his Deef Logistic hated AIR Lavoisier. cleaning the oxygen and by and analyzing the components of combustion. He came to the conclusion that phlogiston was, as he had suspected already, not a thing, because it's the math did not add up with his conservation of mass ideas re. He had come to the conclusion that air actually consisted of two components: one combined with metal and supported respiration, and one that did not happen either of these things in seventeen. Seventy seven, he officially put forth a new theory of combustion that left phlogiston completely off the table and its during this time in his famous lab love, was built on the work of other scientists to isolate and name hydrogen, and that's the thing they got him mentioned in our ballooning episode in seventeen. Eighty three
Still embroiled in a constant rigorous debate and the scientific community over this anti phlogiston stance, he became really I meant that it was time to lead chemistry back to a stricter way of thinking, and he campaigned for a systematic analysis of chemistry and science that distinguished true fact from assumption his goal. I quote to rid chemistry of every kind of impediment that delays its advance, so scientific method being established extremely important, as we have discussed in several episodes in seventeen. Eighty, then in collaboration with Louie Burma, Guitar Demo, Vous Claudia we better way and one Francois for Qua he set forth. This proposed method, the nomenclature she meek- and this is basically the early periodic table- and at this point
consisted of thirty three elements which were grouped is gases, metals, non metals and earths, and this is pretty groundbreaking like basically, he saying, if you can break a thing down to appoint, we can't break it down any further. That's an element- and it's going on this list of a thing that we basically take for granted now in gastric class and then in seventeen eighty, nine thirty years later, still working with a lot of these collaborators Lavoisier publish the treaty element have the she me, which is basically the elementary treatise of chemistry and is basically the textbook that really set the stage and transitioned Us Schumann, chemistry officially included the periodic table. It included the law of conservation of mass as well as many other concepts and love was anticipated that it was really gonna. Take quite some time for these new ideas to be accepted, but, interestingly enough it was really just a couple of years
before the ideas that he and his colleagues had worked on, we're just sort of an accepted part of common scientific practices, and I think it's probably because he was so strict in his scientific method that then it was all really well laid out in their within a lot of lake, where we think that we tested this antecedent tested this right. Even though he was always really busy in his lab. Lavoisier, also worked as a civil servant in seventeen eighty. and he was chosen as a member of the Assembly of Orleans and in this position he began to draw up a plan for improving community Socio economic issues, and this included the establishment of work houses, canals insurance societies and savings banks. He was also asked to advise on issues
sewers, the water supply and developing a unified system of weights and measures, also known as the metric system yeah. He really again. The checklist of things he contributed to our modern lives starts to get a little mind blowing, because everything that he touched we'd still are doing this episode of stuff. You miss than history classes, brought to you by Norton three sixty with lifelong. What's your shopping online with your smartphone, its super feels like ear. Personal information is just right there in your hand, but that's not always the case, because, as soon as you had met your personal information could start going other places. In fact, whenever you shop Bank or browse online, your personal invoking get out of your control, and that can we be vulnerable to cyber criminals. More threats demand more protection. That's why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company Norton three
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be genuinely interested in bettering the situation of the lower classes. Mrs something that's been debated throughout the years as to whether or not he was kind of a foolish well off person or if he really was in touch with these ideas in and really had a keen understanding of what was going on. He said to have donated money of his own to the towns of Blah and Roma for the purchase of greens during the famine, but unfortunately he had already made a pretty significant enemy in revolution. Regional power Mamma when he had a little more our work in the sciences. I think people don't always remember that morale worked in science as well as is sort of revolutionary status right tomorrow. In reference to you interactions with the Academy of Sciences referred at one point, to quote the class of geometers and astronomers, which has formed a terrible cabal against me. The voice,
I was among those he felt had a bias against him and yeah. He kind of did seem to think that Murat was a charlatan ear. He didn't have high praise for him, but also their. There is merit to that idea. In seventeen. Ninety Lavoisier is quoted as saying the state of public affairs in France has temporarily retorted the progress of science and distracted scientists from the work that is most precious to them. The key seem to be kind of irritated by all of the things they were going on there and wished they could just go back to their labs and
on improving the world and analyzing it in January of seventeen. Ninety one Jean Paul Murat, began to loudly and publicly attack Lavoisier in a pamphlet he wrote. I denounce you to the core of face: the leader of the chorus of the charlatans Master Lavoisier Cinema, the land, grabber apprentice, chemist pupil of the Geneva stock, Jabber Necker, a farmer General Commissioner for gunpowder and saltpeter director of the Discount bank secretary to the king member of the Academy of Science, bit of Vivier Unfaithful, administrator of the Paris Food Commission and the greatest schemer of our times, would you believe, This little gentleman, who enjoys an income of forty thousand leaver and whose only claim to public recognition, is that he imprisoned Paris by cutting off the fresh air with a wall that cost the poor people
thirty three million leaver is that he moved gun powder from the arsenal into the best deal on the night of July. Twelve them thirteenth is engaged in a devilish intrigue to get himself elected as administrator of the department of Pair Yes, a basically mirage, saying like oh, you claim to be you now trying to do all of this civil work yea. Yet really you just want more power and more money. Your hands are in everything that super suspicious enduring what be kit. What came to be known as the reign of terror arrest warrants were issued for all the stakeholders in the firm General Lavoisier was, of course, among those sought for rest and allegations against this group of men included. Embezzlement of government funds am cutting the tobacco with other substances in order to increase.
whole duty, profits and may eighth. Seventeen. Ninety four a revolutionary tribunal, try Lavoisier and found him guilty in the conspiracy against the people of France. The famed chemist was sent to the d, a team that very day, as was his they're in La Jacques Paul's, leaving Marianne without a father or a husband there. He had always had some business interests with her father and son historian, pointed to the fact that young farmers have been assassinated ten months prior to Lavoisier beheading as ever that Morocco should really not be blamed for Lavoisier these death. But there are others that will counter that his
hi. Lavoisier rhetoric really took a toll on the man's public image, and this was certainly a time when smear campaigns and bad press, particularly in France, where colouring the reputations of people for very long periods of time, for example, let them eat cake, came out of a cartoon that was running at the time and how long have people still believe that rant when it said that re eighteen months after his beheading Lavoisier was exonerated year? Once things had calmed down a little then, and there is a more in depth analysis of everything that has happened. It became clear that really he was not this evil weasel that they had made him out to be rain. Fortunately, they had thought of that eighteen months prior. Think of all the other chemistry stuff we would have, however, on June eighth of
he? Ninety nine, the american Chemical society and a society for says the human dedicated and international historical Chemical landmark Lavoisier in parrots, as an additional note of Austria, has also had a rather a lasting impression on american science and industry via the Dupont family, Pierre Samuel, was one of levices, close friends and after the revolution during which Du Pont had been arrested and barely managed to escape the guillotine. Pierre Samuel decided to travel to the United States and start anew. Life using gunpowder manufacturing will acknowledge that he had learned from Lavoisier deprived of his son, opened up works in Delaware in eighteen, oh two, and it eventually became the huge corporation. We know it as today, young his son actually wanted to name
after Lavoisier, initially there so for better or for worse on all these points, heat freely in the thick of our modern chemistry, knowledge and happenings even now. So thank him for having heard the periodic table, but except many people probably didn't enjoy learning that I will just say thank for the that is the periodic table yeah you dont like them. rising. Then we need it. Thank you so much for joining us for this Saturday classic, since this is our five. If you heard an email address or a facebook url or something similar during the course of the show that may be obsolete now, so here is our current contact information, we're at history podcast at Helstone dot com and then we're at missed in history all over social media?
That is our name on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, pinterest and Instagram. Thanks again for listening, two more or less, and thousands of other topics visit how stuff works, dot, com. The twenty seven club as a new part cast about famous musicians who died prematurely and sometimes mysteriously at the age of twenty seven. This part past is hosted by me. Jake Brennan creator hosted the hit music, untrue crime part cast disgracing season, one of the twenty seven club launches January twenty seventh, two thousand twenty, with twelve observers on the life and death, Jimi Hendrix twenty seven club contains adult content, inexplicable language. You can listen to the twenty seven club on the radio apple pie cast wherever you pass watch out for years.