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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pride, Prejudice...and Lavoisier

As a quick P.S. to my last message:

In the 1996 book entitled _Lavoisier, chemist, biologist, economist_, by Jean-Pierre Poirier, Rebecca Balinski, I found the following three quotations which relate directly to Lavoisier’s scientific career, and, in the case of the last quotation, indirectly on JA’s, in that JA took a very different “stealth” approach to advancing her career.—and 2 centuries later, more people are reading JA than at any time since she wrote her novels, so I think she did something right!

Lavoisier, too modest regarding his own theory which eventually replaced Priestley’s phlogiston theory:

“I shall be forced to disagree with M. Priestley from time to time, but I can be mistaken, and in spite of THE PRIDE NATURAL TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL, I confess that I often have more confidence in M. Priestley’s ideas than in my own.”

Lavoisier, regarding the project for standardization of weights and measures:

“It belongs equally to all nations of the earth. It does not establish the preeminence of one nation over another. All can adopt it without wounding THEIR NATIONAL PRIDE, which is hardly less potent than INDIVIDUAL PRIDE.”

And finally, the French encyclopedist Gabriel Francois Venel, prophetically describing Lavoisier’s career:

“It is obvious that the revolution that would place chemistry in the rank it deserves…can be carried out only by a clever, enthusiastic, and bold chemist, who, finding himself in a favorable position and skillfully profiting from a few fortunate circumstances, can attract the attention of scientists, first by a noisy ostentation and a determined, assertive tone. And then, by reason, if his first arms have stirred up PREJUDICE.”

Cheers, ARNIE

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