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Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794)

Lavoisier is widely considered to be the founder of modern chemistry as a scientific discipline. Although he discovered no new elements and made few technical innovations, he helped to clarify and codify the experimental discoveries made by his contemporaries and predecessors, and to establish a single theoretical framework for the domain as a whole. He was the first to formulate the general law which recognises that the mass of a given amount of a substance does not vary with changes to its form or state. He helped to discredit phlogiston theory, and rather than accept water and air as elementary substances, he recognised that they were compounds formed of more basic components. In collaboration with his contemporaries Claude-Louis Berthollet, Antoine Fourcroy and Guyton de Morveau, Lavoisier developed a new, simplified method of chemical nomenclature, first published in 1787. His major work was the 1789 Traité Élémentaire de Chimie: it provides a systematic account of chemical elements conceived as simple, unanalysable elements, which serve as the basic units of compound substances.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Antoine Lavoisier, ‘Discours préliminaire’ au Traité élémentaire de Chimie, CpA 10.7 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
François Dagognet, ‘Sur Lavoisier’, CpA 9.13 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Lavoisier, Antoine, and Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau, Antoine-François de Fourcroy, Claude-Louis Berthollet. Méthode de nomenclature chimique. Paris: Chez Chuchet, 1787.
  • Lavoisier, Antoine. Traité élémentaire de chimie, présenté dans un ordre nouveau et d’après les découvertes modernes. Paris: Chez Cuchet, 1789 (reprinted in 1965, by Cultures et Civilisations). The text is available online as part of Les Oeuvres de Lavoisier: Une édition électronique des Œuvres d’Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, published by the CNRS, It was translated into English by Robert Kerr in 1790 as Elements of Chemistry (republished by Dover, in 1965). A pdf scan of the 1802 edition of Kerr’s translation is available at Internet Archive,