Antoine Laurent Lavoisier 26 August 1743-8 May 1794
Proceedings of the Royal Society A
Plates 10 and 11] We have met to-day to honour the memory of a great Frenchman. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier is one of the immortals. In the whole history of science there is no trans formation so swift and dramatic as when in 1789, in his great Treatise, he gave chemistry its modern form, sweeping away the cobwebs of centuries which obscured its progress. He was a child of his age. Bred in France at a time when the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau were stirring men's minds, and Diderot and the
... cyclo paedists were widening their vision, Lavoisier was a great reformer. It is difficult within the compass of an hour to do justice to his many-track mind. Ambition, curiosity, humanity and love of action took him into many fields, and in each his creative genius saw an opportunity for constructive work. The six great volumes of his collected writings display an amazing intellectual and practical achievement. In chemistry, in physics, in physiology, in chemical engineering, in agriculture, in geology, in education, in statistics and in finance he was a pioneer, and in each his contribution has the modern touch both in thought and phrase. The marvel is th at with his widespread interests it was he alone, in a band of brilliant contemporaries like Black, Cavendish, Priestley and Scheele, who had the vision of modern chemistry and gave it life. Alone among the intellectuals Lavoisier was a man of affairs, skilled in administration and finance, and th at is in some measure the secret of his success. For it can be said of him that he applied not only the balance but the principle of the balance sheet to chemistry and physiology. Lavoisier's life was such a tangled skein of occupations th at they cannot be seen in their true perspective under separate headings. Their reactions on each other are the clue to so much that, even at the sacrifice of logical sequence, I shall try to picture the daily current of his life, flowing in its many channels.