08 May 2006

Off with the chemist’s head!

On this date in 1794 Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (born 1743), often considered the "father of modern chemistry", was executed on the guillotine in Paris.

The most significant accomplishment of Lavoisier was perhaps the demonstration that the total mass remains constant during a chemical reaction, which is known as the law of conservation of mass.

Mass of substances before reaction = Mass of substances after reaction

Ever since Einstein demosntrated the equivalency of enery and mass, however, a more accurate statement of this law may be that it is the total energy that is conserved.


Hey, keep your eyes on your work!
This wonderful painting of Lavoisier “working” in his lab with his wife at his side is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Click on the picture to enlarge.


More info on Lavoisier and his accomplishments is available here.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Hee hee. Yeah, it does look like he is thinking about something else other than chemistry!

Gee, I wish my lab looked so elegant!

Mostly I am glad that they are no longer chopping off chemist heads!
Otherwise, I think I would chose a different profession!