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Lavoisier and Metabolism

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794)
Elements of Chemistry, translated by Robert Kerr (Edinburgh, 1790; New York: Dover, 1965 [facsimile edition])
MU Libraries
QD 28. L42 1965

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier is considered the father of modern chemistry, and he was among the first to relate this science to physiology by exploring the ideas of metabolism and respiration.  Lavoisier placed a guinea pig into an ice calorimeter – a container inside another insulated container filled with ice.  The amount of ice that melted would be a measure of the heat given off by the guinea pig.  Through this experiment, Lavoisier was able to demonstrate that respiration was a form of slow combustion. 

Decades ahead of his colleagues, Lavoisier theorized that nutrients play a part in metabolism and respiration.  He began to investigate how the body converts food into tissues before his death in 1794.  Nevertheless, Lavoisier’s work laid the foundation for later investigations of the role of food in the human body.

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