Page:Biographies of Scientific Men.djvu/28

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BIOGRAPHIES OF SCIENTIFIC MEN

produced when the two gases hydrogen and oxygen are exploded together, it would yet appear that he did not fully grasp the fact that water is a compound of these two gases; it was left to Lavoisier to give a clear statement of this all-important fact, and thus to remove the last prop from under the now tottering but once stately edifice built by Stahl and his successors."

The nouvelle chimie, based on the theory of combustion or oxidation, was not accepted by the older chemists, and many distinguished workers remained followers of Stahl and his phlogistic doctrine, but unprejudiced and younger minds readily accepted the teachings of Lavoisier—certainly a revolution on the older views of chemical theory. This revolution brought upon him much odium and obloquy—so much so that his effigy was burnt at Berlin as a protest against his antiphlogistic doctrines; yet the same Prussian savants and students a few years later readily accepted the nouvelle chimie, and now his philosophy is the bulwark, the very foundation stone, of modern chemistry.

The following words of a well-known living scientist are applicable in Lavoisier's case: "It is extraordinary how slow people are to appreciate enthusiasm on the part of real workers; and it is a terrible crime to upset preconceived ideas. However, it is satisfactory to feel that one has helped to advance truth and upset falsehood, even should the effort prove painful to a certain section