On This Day
1794 – Branded a traitor during the Reign of Terror by revolutionists, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who was also a tax collector with the Ferme générale, is tried, convicted and guillotined in one day in Paris.
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (also Antoine Lavoisier after the French Revolution; French: [ɑ̃twan lɔʁɑ̃ də lavwazje]; 26 August 1743 – 8 May 1794) was a French nobleman and chemist who was central to the 18th-century chemical revolution and who had a large influence on both the history of chemistry and the history of biology. He is widely considered in popular literature as the “father of modern chemistry”.
It is generally accepted that Lavoisier’s great accomplishments in chemistry largely stem from his changing the science from a qualitative to a quantitative one. Lavoisier is most noted for his discovery of the role oxygen plays in combustion. He recognized and named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783) and opposed the phlogiston theory. Lavoisier helped construct the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature. He predicted the existence of silicon (1787) and was also the first to establish that sulfur was an element (1777) rather than a compound. He discovered that, although matter may change its form or shape, its mass always remains the same.
Lavoisier was a powerful member of a number of aristocratic councils, and an administrator of the Ferme générale. The Ferme générale was one of the most hated components of the Ancien Régime because of the profits it took at the expense of the state, the secrecy of the terms of its contracts, and the violence of its armed agents. All of these political and economic activities enabled him to fund his scientific research. At the height of the French Revolution, he was charged with tax fraud and selling adulterated tobacco, and was guillotined.
Born On This Day
1492 – Andrea Alciato, Italian jurist and writer (d. 1550)
Andrea Alciato (8 May 1492 – 12 January 1550), commonly known as Alciati (Andreas Alciatus), was an Italian jurist and writer. He is regarded as the founder of the French school of legal humanists.
Alciati was born in Alzate Brianza, near Milan, and settled in France in the early 16th century. He displayed great literary skill in his exposition of the laws, and was one of the first to interpret the civil law by the history, languages and literature of antiquity, and to substitute original research for the servile interpretations of the glossators. He published many legal works, and some annotations on Tacitus and accumulated a sylloge of Roman inscriptions from Milan and its territories, as part of his preparation for his history of Milan, written in 1504-05.
Alciati is most famous for his Emblemata, published in dozens of editions from 1531 onward. This collection of short Latin verse texts and accompanying woodcuts created an entire European genre, the emblem book, which attained enormous popularity in continental Europe and Great Britain.
Alciati died at Pavia in 1550.
Plenitudo potestatis nihil aliud est quam violentia
“Plenitude of power is nothing else than violence.” Responsum Bk 5, 23
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