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Antoine Lavoisier: Biography, Facts & Quotes

Instructor: Kimberly Uptmor

Kimberly has a Bachelor's degree from Lewis Clark State College in Secondary Education Science and has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University. She has taught a variety of subjects in the last 7 years, from Biology, Chemistry, Physical Science, Life Science, Geology, Educational Assessment, and Educational Psychology to high school, college, and online.

Known as the 'Father of Modern Chemistry,' Antoine Lavoisier was a French scientist who made great discoveries in the field of chemistry. This lesson looks at the personal life of this great man, from his early education to his death.

Father of Modern Chemistry

Do you ever have a yearning in your heart to be known for something? When it comes to common names, they can be easily forgotten. Many times, only titles, nicknames, and names of honor are remembered because there is a story attached to that name. Most of us have a deep yearning to make a name for ourselves, especially we have a passion.

When it comes to Antoine Lavoisier, known as the 'Father of Modern Chemistry', he had an immense passion for this branch of science. His greatest contributions helped broaden the field of chemistry, especially towards understanding the tiniest of particles.

Lawyer or Scientist

Antoine Lavoisier was born in Paris, France, on August 26th, 1743. His early life seemed planned out for him. He was given a great education in order to become a lawyer just like his father, who had built up a great amount of wealth. Although Lavoisier had obtained his license to become a lawyer, his heart was just not into it.

He enjoyed searching for facts in order to prove a certain truth, but he would rather look into nature than into laws. He once said, 'I consider nature a vast chemical laboratory in which all kinds of composition and decomposition are formed.'

Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine Lavoisier

In 1763, Antoine Lavoisier left law and pursued geology, a science that studies the earth. For the next four years, he studied under Jean-Etienne Guettard and became a great scientist and experimenter by 1767. During this time, he researched an effective way to power the lights in Paris and developed reports concerning agriculture.

In 1768, he was accepted to the Academy of Sciences. Although he was doing very well within the area of science, he purchased into the Farmer's General, a company that collected taxes for the French government. For the rest of his life, Lavoisier balanced his life between doing administrative work for the company and dedicating time towards his experimentations in science.

Amateur of Science

Antoine Lavoisier had a full public life and was quite successful with his administrative work and scientific pursuits. In 1771, he met and married Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, who was a student of chemistry and the daughter of a tax farmer, a person assigned to collect money for the government. She was only 14 years old, but she dedicated the rest of her life toward helping her husband with his scientific discoveries. She learned English and Latin in order to translate scientific papers, especially from Great Britain. She also took up art and illustrated much of her husband's work.

Laboratory of Antoine Lavoisier
Laboratory of Antoine Lavoisier

At the time, the world didn't know very much about chemistry and how large objects were made up of tiny particles of matter. Lavoisier was fascinated with chemicals and how they combined with one another. He dedicated much of his time to understanding this branch of science besides just making assumptions about the Earth. He said that 'We must trust to nothing but facts: these are presented to us by nature and cannot deceive.' Appointed to the National Gunpowder Commission in 1775, he built a laboratory where prominent scientists often gathered.

Within his laboratory, Lavoisier made many discoveries about the composition of the world and chemical processes. One of his major contributions was the law of conservation of mass, which states that objects retain their mass when changing to different states, such as solid to liquid or liquid to gas.

He discovered small particles that could not be broken down by chemical means. At the time, there was no terminology given to such a particle. Thus, he named them 'elements'; he discovered 33 different types. However, only 19 out of the 33 are still considered an element today because technology has helped us understand that certain substances he discovered were not elements.

He also studied combustion reactions and understood how oxygen was necessary for these types of reactions. Although he considered himself an amateur in science, he is called the 'Father of Modern Chemistry' because of his many discoveries.

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