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Lavoisier learns to isolate oxygen with Priestly and then realizes it combines with other materials during combustion, thereby overturning the phlogiston theory and bringing in the age of chemicals.

October 1, 1774


Ketones: The Fourth Fuel by Travis Christofferson


"We must trust to nothing but facts: these are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive," wrote Lavoisier.

When he meticulously weighed different materials after they were combusted, h e noticed a consistent theme: they gained mass. To Lavoisier this observation implied that combustion was a process of transformation: the merger of material with air to create a n ew material. "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed," claimed Lavoisier. 

A year later he published a memoir on the subject unequivocally demonstrating that the new gas--that he now called oxygen--was indeed the active component in the air that reacted during combustion. The publication, in a single sweep, spectacularly demolished phlogiston theory and sparked the "chemical revolution" that ushered in modern chemistry. 

  • Ketones: The Fourth Fuel by Travis Christofferson