Considered the founder of modern chemistry, physicist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) was born on this day in Paris, France. He identified 33 elements and was best known for discovering the role oxygen plays in combustion, or burning.
"The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged," he wrote in Elements of Chemistry.
A brilliant experimenter, Lavoisier performed the first truly quantitative chemical experiments. In laying the foundation of modern science, he named the components of water, oxygen, and hydrogen. He dedicated his work for the public good.
As Albert Einstein once observed, "The ideals that have lighted my way and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty, and truth.
Respected by his peers, Lavoisier was elected a member of the elite Academy of Sciences in 1768. Lavoisier helped establish a uniform, accurate system of weights and measurements in 1790, the foundation for all valid quantitative experiments. His system for naming chemical substances based upon their composition is still in use today.
As a member of the Ferme generale, the main tax-collections organization, he tried to introduce reforms in the French monetary and taxation system.
Remarkably, in 1794, Lavoisier was arrested by leaders of the French Revolution and executed by guillotine. Mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange reflected: "It took them only an instant to cut off that head, and a hundred years may not produce another like it."
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