February Question of the Month – an irregular series

During the French Revolution of 1789-1799, a woman was executed. She was married to a member of the nobility. Her husband was a well known scientist (?), as was she. What was her name?

Thank you for your question. The French husband and wife scientific team were Antoine and Marie Lavoisier. Lavoisier, a chemist and physicist, established the practice of accurate measurement that underlies all valid quantitative experiments. He also developed a system for naming chemical compounds that is still used today.

In 1771, Lavoisier married Marie Paulze.  She collaborated with her husband in his scientific work, translating material into French, and illustrating his publications.

With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Lavoisier’s position as an administrator in the tax collection agency automatically made him a target of hatred. He fled but was caught after a few months. When he protested that he was a scientist, not a tax man, he was told the Republic did not need scientists. Lavoisier was charged with ridiculous crimes, such as diluting commercial tobacco and cutting off the Paris air supply by building a defensive wall around the city. On May 8, 1794, Lavoisier was sentenced to death and executed on the guillotine.

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