Lavoisier’s Labor Antoine Lavoisier was the father of modern chemistry. His wife, Marie-Anne Paulze
Lavoisier, was its mother.
During their lifetimes in the 18th century, scientists were trying to explain how the physical world behaved based on the FourFundamentals: fire, earth, air, and water. Through careful observations and data collection, the Lavoisiers were able to determine the way in which many chemical reactions occurred. They investigated combustion, identified elements and systematized nomenclature, researched transpiration and respiration, and disproved the theory of phlogiston.
During the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution, Antoine Lavoisier supervised the manufacture of gunpowder for the King of France and performed many experiments exploring the chemical reaction of combustion. The result, his law of conservation of mass, explains that matter in a chemical reaction is neither created nor destroyed - it is transformed into new chemical compounds.
Marie-Anne Lavoisier was his chief collaborator and laboratory assistant. She translated Richard Kirwan’s Essay on Phlogiston from English to French, allowing her husband and others to dispute Kirwan’s ideas. She drew many sketches and carved engravings of the laboratory instruments used by Lavoisier and his colleagues. She edited and published Lavoisier’s Memoirs and hosted many parties where eminent scientists discussed new chemistry and other ideas.
Your task is to investigate Lavoisier’s law of conservation of mass and carefully record observations of all aspects of the chemical reaction.
In your science notebook, design a procedure to verify Lavoisier’s law of conservation of mass. You will be provided with a resealable bag, pure water, a graduated cylinder, a balance, a pair of goggles, an apron, and an antacid tablet. Include all equipment and procedures that will be required to carry out the task. Before you begin, have your teacher review your design.
During the investigation, collect accurate data and make detailed observations. Record these in your science notebook. When the investigation is complete, write a conclusion to describe your findings. The Lavoisiers were famous for their carefully collected data and the detail of their observations. Follow their example!
But take care; Lavoisier was branded a traitor during the Reign of Terror by French revolutionaries and lost his head to the guillotine. The new government seized all of Lavoisier’s notebooks and laboratory equipment. Carefully collected data and attentive observations of ALL aspects of your reaction may save you from a fate similar to Lavoisier or one far worse – a disappointed chemistry teacher.
It is worth noting that before her death at age 78, Marie-Anne was able to recover nearly all of Antonine’s notebooks and chemical apparatuses. Most of them are housed in a collection at Cornell University, the largest of its kind outside of Europe.