Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794)


Elements of Chemistry

Edinburgh Edition of 1790, pp. 175-8 [from David M. Knight, ed., Classical Scientific Papers--Chemistry, Second Series, 1970]


Simple substances belonging to all the kingdoms of nature, which may be considered as the elements of bodies.

New Names. Correspondent old Names.
Light Light.
Caloric Heat.
  Principle or element of heat.
  Fire. Igneous fluid.
  Matter of fire and of heat.
Oxygen Depholgisticated air.
  Empyreal air.
  Vital air, or
  Base of vital air.
Azote Phlogisticated air or gas.
  Mephitis, or its base.
Hydrogen Inflammable air or gas,
  or the base of inflammable air.

Oxydable and Acidifiable simple Substances not Metallic.

New Names. Correspondent old names.
Sulphur The same names.
Muriatic radical Still unknown.
Fluoric radical
Boracic radical

Oxydable and Acidifiable simple Metallic Bodies.

New Names. Correspondent Old Names.
Antimony Regulus of Antimony
Arsenic " " Arsenic
Bismuth " " Bismuth
Cobalt " " Cobalt
Copper " " Copper
Gold " " Gold
Iron " " Iron
Lead " " Lead
Manganese " " Manganese
Mercury " " Mercury
Molybdena " " Molybdena
Nickel " " Nickel
Platina " " Platina
Silver " " Silver
Tin " " Tin
Tungstein " " Tungstein
Zinc " " Zinc

Salifiable simple Earthy Substances

New Names. Correspondent Old Names.
Lime Chalk, calcareous earth.
Magnesia Magnesia, base of Epsom salt.
  Calcined or caustic magnesia.
Barytes Barytes, or heavy earth.
Argill Clay, earth of alum.
Silex Siliceous or vitrifiable earth.

SECT. I.-- Observations upon the Table of Simple Substances.

The principle object of chemical experiments is to decompose natural bodies, so as separately to examine the different substances which enter into their composition. By consulting chemical systems, it will be found that this science of chemical analysis has made rapid progress in our own times. Formerly oil and salt were considered as elements of bodies, whereas later observation and experiment have shown that all salts, instead of being simple, are composed of an acid united to a base. The bounds of analysis have been greatly enlarged by modern discoveries; the acids are shown to be composed of oxygen, as an acidifying principle common to all, united in each to a particular base. I have proved what Mr Hassenfratz had before advanced, that these radicals of the acids are not all simple elements, many of them being, like the oily principle, composed of hydrogen and charcoal. Even the bases of neutral salts have been proved by Mr Berthollet to be compounds, as he has shown that ammoniac is composed of azote and hydrogen.

Thus, as chemistry advances towards perfection, by dividing and subdividing, it is impossible to say where it is to end; and these things we at present suppose simple may soon be found quite otherwise. All we dare venture to affirm of any substance is, that it must be considered as simple in the present state of our knowledge, and so far as chemical analysis has hitherto been able to show. We may even presume that the earths must soon cease to be considered as simple bodies; they are the only bodies of the salifiable class which have no tendency to unite with oxygen; and I am much inclined to believe that this proceeds from their being already saturated with that element. If so, they will fall to be considered as compounds consisting of simple substances, perhaps metallic, oxydated to a certain degree. This is only hazarded as a conjecture; and I trust the reader will take care not to confound what I have related as truths, fixed on the firm basis of observation and experiment, with mere hypothetical conjectures.

The fixed alkalies, potash, and soda, are omitted in the foregoing Table, because they are evidently compound substances, though we are ignorant as yet what are the elements they are composed of.