A Love Story That Revolutionized Chemistry: Marie & Antoine Lavoisier

There are countless beautiful encounters in this world, and perhaps the most touching one is the encounter between Lavoisier, the “father of modern chemistry”, and his wife Marie. They worked together to create scientific miracles. It is no exaggeration to say that without them, there might not be a discipline of chemistry. However, when we open the PEP chemistry textbook and see the portrait of Lavoisier, we may be a little confused: Why does Lavoisier, holding a quill, neither look down at the paper nor look ahead, but turns his head? Looking to the right? In fact, this portrait is called “Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Lavoisier”, but Mary beside Lavoisier has been cut out. In the original painting, Lavoisier is looking at his wife affectionately.

At that moment, Lavoisier’s eyes seemed to be able to accommodate the entire chemical world, but could only hold his beloved wife. Just like the moon meets the clouds, the flowers meet the breeze, and I met you at the best time. In this wonderful marriage of mutual achievement, they wrote the purest and most steadfast love story in the world.

Talented man and beautiful woman, love at first sight

One day in 1771, Mary Boltz was flipping through a book irritably while listening to the conversation between her father and the old count Francois in the living room. When she heard that Francois proposed a sky-high price to marry her, Mary dropped the book to the ground. From the moment he entered the door, Francois’ eyes glanced back and forth at Mary, like a hungry wolf looking at a fat lamb. This made Mary extremely uncomfortable.

Marie, then 13 years old, was born into a noble family in Monbrison-sur-Rhine, France. When she was 3 years old, her mother died of illness, and her father, Jacques Boltz, sent her to a convent, where the nuns were responsible for her upbringing and teaching. Because of this, Mary developed an independent and courageous character from an early age.

Seven years later, Mary was taken home, and her father hired the best tutor for her, hoping to train her into a well-behaved lady. Mary lived up to high expectations. Not only was she beautiful and generous, but she also quickly showed her talent in language. At the age of 12, she had read many world famous works including “The Life of Langdon”.

Being well educated, Mary was dismissive of the pedantic thinking of that era. She believes that women should have their own pursuits instead of being dependent on men. Therefore, when Francois came to visit, Marie was keenly aware of the danger. Francois took out an expensive diamond, handed it to Mary, and said, “Only the most beautiful girl deserves the most expensive diamond!” However, Mary sidestepped away and responded in an unassuming manner: “I think you should Give it to a lady of similar age, Uncle Francois.” After saying this, Mary turned and walked away, but behind her came the old count’s unwilling promise: “I can also introduce you to Become a female official in the court.” Mary smiled and said, “I don’t want to lose my life’s freedom in exchange for so-called fame!”

Francois refused to give up and wanted to use a manor as a bride price to induce Jacques to agree to marry his daughter to him. In Europe in the 18th century, marriage had always been a bargaining chip for the daughters of wealthy families, and most fathers hoped to use their daughter’s marriage to make friends with powerful men. Fortunately, Jacques felt sorry for his daughter who lost her mother at a young age and did not want to wrong her to marry an old man over fifty years old, so he declined Francois on the grounds that “the daughter is ignorant and needs to be taught”.

Despite this, Mary still had lingering fears that she would be randomly married by her father in the future. At that time, she could never have imagined that Cupid, the God of Love, would be watching over her. Soon, she will meet the love of her life.

On June 17, 1771, Jacques held a dinner party at his home. When Antoine Laurent Lavoisier walked through the door, Marie’s eyes immediately lit up. Unlike the people in the hall who were talking loudly and deliberately showing themselves off, Lavoisier didn’t care about the noise around him. He seemed to be in a deserted world and looked intently at the book in his hand. His unique temperament attracted Mary’s attention, so Mary took the initiative to walk over and greet him: “Hello, may I meet you?” However, Lavoisier seemed to be still immersed in his own world, just nodded, and then I picked up the milk on hand and read a book while drinking it.

Mary watched curiously as he finished a glass of milk and picked up another bowl. Finally, when Lavoisier started to drink the third glass of milk, Mary couldn’t help but joked: “Sir, if I read it correctly, you drank a glass of milk tonight, and then a bowl of milk, and what’s next?” Want to drink a basin of milk?” Lavoisier looked at her tenderly and explained: “Miss, you are really different. Since you pursue the truth, I will explain my behavior as follows: In the past five weeks, Milk was my only food, and this was about exploring the impact of food on human health.”

When the people nearby heard what Lavoisier said, they burst into laughter and said that he was such a strange person. Mary was the only one looking at him with bright eyes. The girl’s heart was like a calm lake surface, suddenly dropped by stones, and the ripples rippled from the bottom of her heart in circles until they spread throughout her body.

Lavoisier, who was 28 years old at the time, came from a privileged family. His father was a well-known lawyer and his mother came from a noble family. Lavoisier was extremely smart since he was a child and was admitted to the famous Mazarin College in Paris at the age of 11. There, he met the famous geologist Jean Geta, and after graduation he became Geta’s assistant, collecting ore and drawing maps together. While analyzing geological samples, Lavoisier developed a keen interest in chemistry. However, under his father’s arrangement, he had to study law. At the age of 20, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in law and qualified as a lawyer. As a second-generation rich man from a wealthy family, Lavoisier had every chance of becoming a “dandy”, but he did not choose that path. Instead, he completed his studies according to the track set by his father while continuing to pursue his dream. Dream – Chemistry.

At the age of 27, Lavoisier entered the Academy of Sciences and became a colleague of Jacques. In his free time, Lavoisier also worked part-time in his father’s law firm, and he was also a well-paid tax collector. It can be said that Lavoisier at that time was an outstanding young man with good looks, talent and strength. Like a refreshing breeze, Lavoisier entered Mary’s heart without warning. Mary, a young girl in love, listened eagerly to Lavoisier’s description of his experiments. The twinkling light in his eyes suddenly illuminated Mary’s originally monotonous life.

Fairy couple, mutual success

Perhaps, love is like this, it is illogical and unpredictable. From the moment Marie and Lavoisier looked at each other, sparks seemed to fly between their souls. In Lavoisier’s eyes, Mary seemed so different. Others laughed at his milk experiment, but Mary blinked her big, smart eyes and asked: “What about the results? Is there any data to prove its impact?” That day, the two There was a lot to talk about, from Lavoisier’s milk experiments to the laboratory he created himself. Although there is a 15-year age gap between them, this does not stop the two young hearts from approaching each other excitedly.

Shortly after the banquet, Mary obtained her father’s permission under the pretext of asking for chemistry questions, and then, accompanied by a servant, went to Lavoisier’s home on Avenue Montaigne. That day, Marie visited Lavoisier’s laboratory. She followed Lavoisier attentively and listened to his explanation of professional contents such as quantitative containers, decomposition of air, and how to analyze the composition of air. Lavoisier explained professionally and meticulously, while Mary listened with concentration and fascination. The two looked at each other from time to time. If time could stand still at this moment, it would surely brew the most intensely fragrant truffles in the world.

Before Marie returned home, Lavoisier gave her a leaf vein bookmark. It was a sycamore leaf that Lavoisier picked up in late summer. The handle was decorated with ruby. On the spread-out leaves, there was a sentence he had just written: “To me, you are the most beautiful encounter in the world.” Since then, this bookmark, which smells of books and chemicals, has become Mary’s most cherished gift.

In order to make the old earl give up on Mary, Jacques has been looking for a suitable partner for his daughter. At this time, seeing that his daughter and Lavoisier were in love, Jacques almost immediately agreed to their marriage. So, after only four weeks of knowing each other, Lavoisier and Marie entered the marriage hall hand in hand. At the wedding, Lavoisier held Marie’s hand, and the guests wished them happiness together. But people at the time didn’t know that this talented couple would join hands in the vast world of chemistry.

In 18th-century France, marriage was a constraint for women. After marriage, a woman has endless housework and has to make clothes for the whole family. However, Mary was not willing to live this mediocre life. Lavoisier gave his wife the greatest respect. Seeing that Mary was very interested in learning, he encouraged Mary to study. Not only did he teach her personally, he also invited many famous teachers in the scientific world to teach her philosophy, chemistry, and astronomy.

Lavoisier was good at scientific research, but his language skills were poor, he could not read English papers, and he was unable to understand the latest research progress in the field of chemistry. Mary is very talented in languages ​​and can speak Latin and French at the age of 13. In order to help her husband understand scientific papers, she deliberately learned English. In just one year, she became a professional translator and helped Lavoisier translate a large number of English documents. At that time, the most famous chemists in the world were British Joseph Priestley and Henry Cavendy. In order for Lavoisier to systematically understand their works, Mary spent a lot of energy to Their works have all been translated into French. With Marie’s help, Lavoisier’s scientific research progressed by leaps and bounds.

At that time, people’s understanding of chemistry was still a metaphysics similar to alchemy, but Lavoisier wanted to upgrade chemistry into a systematic science and create an earth-shaking academic revolution. In order to stay abreast of the latest scientific advances, Mary hosts a weekly salon at home, meeting scientists from all over the world and chatting with them. At that time, famous scientists such as Franklin from the United States and Watt from the United Kingdom were guests of the Lavoisier family.

On the first day after their marriage, Lavoisier brought Marie into the laboratory and invited her to be his assistant. Lavoisier had high requirements for experimental accuracy. He designed and customized the most precise balance in the world at that time, with an accuracy of one thousandth of a gram. Mary could not only use these sophisticated instruments in tacit cooperation with Lavoisier, but she could also organize all the data, record them, and write a paper.

Lavoisier and Marie, the divine couple, together created a new era of chemistry and established a new set of chemical theories: they discovered hydrogen, thus overturning the “phlogiston theory”; they were the first to confirm the chemical properties of oxygen. , verified the law of conservation of mass, and produced the earliest table of chemical elements… In 1789, Lavoisier published “Basic Treatise on Chemistry”. In this book, Lavoisier defined the concept of elements, classified common chemical substances at the time, and summarized 33 elements and common compounds, making the fragmented chemical knowledge at the time gradually clear. This is the world’s first modern chemistry textbook, and Lavoisier is known as the “Father of Modern Chemistry”.

In addition to organizing the manuscript, Mary also drew all the illustrations for the entire book herself. After the publication of “Basic Essays on Chemistry”, in addition to the theories in the book, more than 160 pictures of precision experimental instruments also shocked the entire chemical world, because every detailed proportion and perspective effect in the pictures were accurately restored like a camera. These illustrations not only effectively help readers understand and even restore experiments, but also promote the standardization process of experimental instruments. In an interview, Lavoisier praised his wife Mary without hesitation: “Without her, no matter how good the instruments are, I would not be able to study the theory of oxidation. My wife is my best assistant on the road to research.”

What is little known is that in order to draw these illustrations, Marie specifically studied painting techniques from Jacques-Louis David, a leading painter at the time.

David was not only the most famous painter of his time and the founder of the Classical School, he was also the king’s court painter. This already famous painter was deeply attracted by Mary’s beauty when he first met her. In the subsequent interactions, he was even more impressed by Mary’s intelligence. In just half a year, Mary’s paintings were already on par with David’s. David was completely devastated and launched a passionate pursuit of Mary. He persuaded Mary: “Marry me and I can make you the most famous female painter. This is much more meaningful than those boring experiments!” However, Mary loved Lavoisier wholeheartedly and was not moved at all. She told David: “Impulsive love is often difficult to last. Only feelings based on common ideals are indestructible.”

Mary’s sobriety made David admire her even more, and the two became good friends. One afternoon in the early spring of 1791, David painted a portrait of Lavoisier and Marie. In the portrait, Lavoisier is sitting on a chair, holding a quill in his right hand, turning to look at his beautiful wife. Mary, who was wearing a long white dress, put her left hand on her husband’s shoulder. The couple’s eyes were equally gentle and firm.

This picture was so beautiful that more than two hundred years later, many famous books including “The Red and the Black”, “Resurrection” and “A Tale of Two Cities” used this portrait as the cover. The portrait of Lavoisier in the PEP chemistry textbook used by middle school students is also taken from this portrait.

Love across time and space

The portraits of the Lavoisiers freeze the best moments of this divine couple. However, the good times were so short-lived. In 1789, the French Revolution broke out, and Lavoisier, a nobleman, was also involved.

Before the French Revolution, the government adopted the form of tax farming, that is, the state contracted the tax collection work, and people hired by businessmen went to various places to collect taxes. Except for the vast majority of the taxes collected, the rest was handed over to the state. It is regarded as labor fee and belongs to the merchant. Because of their huge profits, tax collectors are like schistosomiasis attached to taxpayers and are deeply hated by the people. Lavoisier himself had no interest in being a tax collector, but because scientific research required funds, he joined the ranks of tax collectors as early as 1770.

After the French Revolution began, tax collectors naturally became the target of the revolution, and 17 tax collectors, including Lavoisier, were arrested. This news was like a bolt from the blue to Mary. She spent all the money the couple had accumulated and ran around, begging her former aristocratic friends to help petition Congress to release Lavoisier, who had made outstanding contributions to scientific research. However, those former friends were afraid of being implicated and chose to stand aside.

On May 8, 1794, Lavoisier’s trial began. Although Lavoisier’s lawyer repeatedly reminded the judge that Lavoisier’s scientific achievements far outweighed his mistakes, the judge only responded coldly: “Revolution does not need science, only justice.” That’s it, this The brilliant founder of modern chemistry was guillotined.

When the news came that Lavoisier had been beheaded, Marie fainted several times. Countless people lamented that France had lost a true scientist. The famous French mathematician Lagrand said sadly: “It only takes a moment to cut off Lavoisier’s head, but it will take a long time to grow another such head.” a hundred years.”

Lavoisier’s death was a stain on the times and a tragedy for Mary. The two have been together for 23 years and share the same goals. Now that her lover suddenly leaves, it is an unbearable heart-breaking pain for Mary. She once wanted to follow her lover, but at this time, she received a letter written by Lavoisier before his execution. The letter read: “I can have a successful career and enjoy a happy life all because of the power you give me with love. My work has been completed, but you still have a longer way to go. Please cherish it and don’t waste it. This opportunity.”

Following Lavoisier’s wishes, Marie devoted the rest of her life to science. All her property was taken away by the revolutionaries, and even her experimental equipment and diaries were looted. Her life was once in trouble, and she could only rely on the help of her family servants to survive. However, Mary did not give up. She wrote in her diary: “It doesn’t matter, all the data is in my heart.” With her extraordinary memory, Mary spent 9 years organizing Lavoisier’s manuscripts in the form of a memoir.

In order for Lavoisier’s results to be published and spread throughout the world, Mary was not afraid of hardships and traveled around. However, no publishing house dared to print “Memoirs of Lavoisier” because in the preface of the book, Mary sharply condemned the revolutionary party and those aristocratic friends who stood by and watched. Unable to find a publisher, Mary printed the book at her own expense and gave the book to scientist friends and libraries. Mary’s move offended many people and may even bring her death. However, at this time, Mary was no longer afraid of life and death. In order to prove the innocence of her deceased lover, she was willing to make an enemy of the world.

In the afterglow of life, although Mary once entered into marriage again, she always regarded herself as “Madame Lavoisier”. Compared with her first marriage, Mary’s second marriage was a quagmire. Her second husband, Benjamin Thompson, also a famous scientist, pursued Mary for four years. However, after marriage, Thompson did not respect his wife as much as Lavoisier. He stubbornly believed that it was a sin for women to appear in public, and it was even more deviant to conduct scientific research. As a result, Thompson never discussed science with Mary and steadfastly refused to allow her to be his experimental assistant. This marriage made Mary feel suffocated, and it only lasted four years before ending in divorce. From then on, Mary never married again. Perhaps for her, meeting Lavoisier had exhausted all her good luck.

In 1836, 78-year-old Mary died in Paris, France. Before she died, she held tightly in her hand the bookmark that Lavoisier gave her 65 years ago. Although time has long eroded the handwriting on the bookmark, on the other side, a sentence Mary copied not long ago is clearly visible: “To me, you are the most beautiful encounter in the world.” Mary, who was lying quietly on the wicker chair, looked at her face. Quiet, with a smile on his lips. Perhaps at this moment, Mary has reunited with her eternal lover Lavoisier in another time and space.

The love between Lavoisier and Marie began with a fleeting glance and continued into endless time and space. They met during the most glorious years of each other’s lives, and the laboratory became a warm backdrop for their perfect marriage. The scientific research achievements achieved by this couple are destined to become an unrepeatable legend in the history of chemistry. Even if they can’t grow old together, their love has transcended life and death. When we understand their stories, the portrait of Lavoisier in the chemistry book is no longer a cold picture with a weird angle, but a talented husband gazing lovingly at his beloved wife.

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