Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier is named the founder of modern chemistry. And it is no exaggeration. With the first degree in law, he studied natural and exact sciences under the best professors in Paris and upon graduation he started his own studies. He succeeded, as he is noted for his discovery of the role oxygen plays in combustion, oxidation and respiration and that way debunked the phlogiston theory, figured out what air and water are, established thermochemistry, discovered the law of perdurability, introduced such terms, as “chemical element” and “chemical compound,” proposed the name for the chemical element of nitrogen, wrote the textbook Elementary Treatise of Chemistry... The last of his experiments, as French historians sadly joked, was the attempt to answer the question: “how long can a severed head blink?” The head was his, unfortunately. The great chemist met his end in the guillotine. The French Republic did not need scientists but was desperate to punish the tax farmer general. Two years after his execution, Lavoisier was posthumously exonerated by the government and his belongings were delivered to his widow. No one could return the head though. The prophetic words the mathematician Lagrange once said in conversation with his colleague d’Alembert came true: “Il ne leur a fallu qu’un moment pour faire tomber cette tête, et cent années peut-être ne suffiront pas pour en reproduire une semblable.” (“It took them only an instant to cut off this head, and one hundred years might not suffice to reproduce its like.”) “Die Chemie hat kein großes Haupt mehr, seit Lavoisier das seinige verloren” (“Chemistry no longer has a great head after Lavoisier lost his”), the pharmacist Trommsdorff told Napoleon. The Polish writer Stanisław Lem equated Lavoisier's execution with Socrates’s poisoning, Archimedes’s and Pushkin’s killing and Giordano Bruno’s burning at the stake. Lem gave it a name by coining the neologism “geniocide,” that is, mass killings of geniuses.
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