Claim to Fame:
- Considered the Father of Chemistry for making chemistry a quantitative science from a qualitative science.
- Authored the the first modern chemistry textbook "Elementary Treatise of Chemistry" which listed all the currently known elements.
- First to state a conservation of mass law in chemical reactions.
- Recognized hydrogen and oxygen were elements and together made up water.
- Introduced the idea of allotropes when he discovered carbon and diamonds were the same material.
- Disproved the dominant Phlogiston Theory of combustion.
- Showed rust was formed by oxygen.
- Believed oxygen was responsible for making acids acidic. (This was later disproved.)
- Leader in the development of the metric system of measurement.
For example, charcoal contained a lot of phlogiston. When burned, this phlogiston would be released and the remaining ashes were all that was left.
The problem with phlogiston theory was trying to determine how much phlogiston weighed. In some cases, such as calcinating (heating a metal in air) some metals to form a metal oxide, the weight of the oxide was higher than the original metal. This would imply phlogiston would have a negative value for weight.
Lavoisier showed that reactions with oxygen caused oxides to form and combustion to take place. He also showed how the mass of the reactants of a chemical reaction was equal to the mass of the products. This removed the need for phlogiston to have weight, either positive or negative. When he died, phlogiston theory was still accepted, but the next generation of chemists accepted his work and phlogiston theory was gone.
The same government exonerated Lavoisier two years later.