Paris – Lavoisier

You will see his monument behind the Madeleine; he has a short street given him, and out on the rue de Chazelles, where he used to have a field for raising potatoes, there stands a house in which one of the most famous builders of bridges has his offices. But if you only study the monument you will have a good idea of his work. A formal man full of the desire to bring order into the science of chemistry, he is called the Father of Modern Chemistry. Perhaps he is, but there are some of us who wish he had not rendered it so cold and distant, so ballistic, with its signs and letters.

In order to have money enough to carry on his experiments (he was born in Paris in 1743) he accepted a post as one of the fated Farmers-General. He did carry on his work until the Revolution. He discovered the law of the conservation of matter and the role of oxygen. But the reputation of wringing taxes from the people gained by the organization to which he belonged, carried him, too, into the flood-tide of hate.

He could have escaped, but he preferred to share the fate of the others, and he was the fourth of the twenty-eight men to be beheaded although he begged in the name of science for a few days to finish certain experiments. You can read on the pedestal of his statue some of his discoveries : the bleaching of linen and hempen cloth; the refining of metal; the discovery of sugar in beets and how to get it out all the realm of applied chemistry was his.

“The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists. The course of justice must not be interrupted,” said his executioner.

At the Arts et Métiers Museum you can see many of his laboratory utensils and apparatus.