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<   No. 2810   2010-10-06   >

Comic #2810

1 SFX: JURRRZ! {time machine appears}
2 Isaac Newton: Monsieur Lavoisier?
2 Antoine Lavoisier: Oui?
3 Isaac Newton: We need your help to save the universe.
3 Antoine Lavoisier: And why should I trust an Englishman?
4 Isaac Newton: Because, Monsieur, I am Isaac freaking Newton.

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Antoine Lavoisier was a French chemist in the 18th century, around the time of the French Revolution, and really the first person in history to truly deserve the appellation of a "chemist". He brought systematic study and quantitative methods into the study of matter and energy, something which had previously been the domain of alchemists who combined pre-chemical thinking with mysticism.

Lavoisier was the first person to recognise that mass is conserved in a chemical reaction, and that burning was a reaction in which things were being combined with oxygen, rather than separating from and releasing a semi-mystical substance known as phlogiston.

A lesser known fact about Lavoisier's early experiments is that his wife, Marie-Anne, was also keen on scientific experimentation and contributed significantly to his research. She kept detailed notes of experiments and, being fluent in several languages unlike her husband, translated numerous scientific writings from English and Latin into French so that he could read them and build on their work.

Alas, Lavoisier happened to live in Interesting Times, and being a highly influential member of the established nobility, it was almost inevitable that when the Reign of Terror began he was one of the first up against the wall. He was accused of various niggly crimes - such as selling watered-down tobacco - and, as was the custom in those tumultuous times for anyone the French Revolutionaries took a disliking to, was summarily guillotined. His poor wife survived long enough to receive an apology from the French Government, who cleared him of all charges, and delivered to her the remainder of his personal belongings, including many of the scientific notebooks they had worked on together. She maintained this collection and bequeathed it to posterity on her own death, some 42 years after her husband's.

In the current comic story, Lavoisier should leap at this chance to escape the guillotine...

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