wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and ScienceAntoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science


Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794)


French chemist (pictured right).

The founder of modern chemistry

Guillotined during the French Revolution.


His most famous book is...

Essays Physical and Chemical  (1774).


Why was he so creative?

 Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

1. Revolutionary

He revolutionized chemistry (like Isaac Newton , pictured right, did in physics) by:


a) discovering elements and compounds

He was the first person to identify them and measure them precisely.


b) disproving the theory of phlogiston

(the basis of chemistry for 23 centuries).

This said that materials become lighter when burned in air

But Lavoisier proved they become heavier through combustion (i.e. their combination with oxygen).

Their extra weight is the weight of the oxygen plus that of the burning material.

 Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

c) precise measurement 

This gave him the edge over the English chemist, Joseph Priestley (pictured right), who:

  • discovered oxygen (what Priestly called “dephlogisticated air”), but
  • failed to arrive at Lavoisier’s conclusions about combustion.


2. Learning from other scientistsAntoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

He learnt a lot from Joseph Priestley, but there was intense rivalry and even hatred between them, particularly after Lavoisier claimed to have discovered oxygen first!

Priestly emigrated to America and became a friend of:

 Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

3. Perfectionism

He was obsessed with the accuracy and excellence of his work.


4. Passionate about chemistry

Chemistry was his hobby, not his career.


  • was a tax collector (which made him very wealthy but extremely unpopular).
  • loved his one day a week of chemistry (which he called his day of happiness).
  • pleaded for two more weeks to finish some chemistry (after being sentenced to death).

The judge’s famous reply was:

“The revolution does not need scientists”.

 Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

5. Love

His wife, Maria (pictured right together in Jacques-Louis David's painting) , was:

  • very bright.
  • learned chemistry to help in his laboratory.
  • loving and supportive (despite her affair with one of his friends).


6. Hard work

Before work, he got up at six to spend two hours on his experiments

He worked for another three hours when he got home.


7. Experiments and observation

His knowledge increased from his endless experiments, like his proofs that:Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

  • water consisted of two elements (hydrogen and oxygen).
  • air consisted of two gases (oxygen and azote, later renamed nitrogen) .

He always made a hypothesis first and then tried to prove it through:

  • experiments.
  • observing the facts.
  • precisely measuring his observations.

 Antoine Lavoisier - Creativity and Science

8. Purpose

His work aimed to improve people’s lives by increasing scientific knowledge.

In his last letter, he said that science and his family made him happier than anything else.

“I trust my passing will be remembered with some regret and perhaps some honour”, he wrote just before his execution.


Key quotes on science and creativity

We must trust to nothing but the facts.

We ought...never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation.

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books