(b. Montbrison, France, 20 January 1758; d. Paris, France, 10 February 1836), chemistry, botany, economics, social reform.
Marie-Anne Paulze-Lavoisier was the wife of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794), the figure known as the father of the chemical revolution. She was an active collaborator across the full range of her husband’s encyclopedic activities as chemist, financial administrator, and social reformer, but she especially exerted herself to help bring about the success and widespread diffusion of the chemical revolution.
Paulze-Lavoisier was born into the wealthy bourgeois class in 1758. As was customary at that time, she received her elementary education at a boarding school attached to a convent and was not given any education in science. Her father was a colleague of Lavoisier in the Ferme Général. Paulze-Lavoisier’s apprenticeship in science began in December 1771, after she had married Lavoisier. The occasion that first led her to embark on this goal is not known, but it is apparent that this young woman wanted to become a suitable wife for her husband, the great scholar, and it is also apparent that this is what her husband wanted. She learned the basics of chemistry from Lavoisier’s colleagues, particularly Jean-Baptiste Michel Bucquet (1746–1780). She learned Latin from a private tutor and her older brother and studied drawing with Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825). She also learned Italian and English (which Lavoisier found difficult) and even mastered the technique of print engraving. Paulze-Lavoisier was present at scientific experiments as well, and many volumes of laboratory notes that she took are in the archives of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. The thirteen copperplate illustrations included in Lavoisier’s Traité élémentaire de chimie, in particular, and the drawings of the laboratory in their residence in the Paris Arsenal were works by Paulze-Lavoisier. These provide precious concrete documentation of her role in Lavoisier’s chemical experiments as well as illustrations of the advanced nature of Lavoisier’s experimental techniques.
Paulze-Lavoisier also contributed to the Chemical Revolution through her translations. She translated into French An Essay on Phlogiston (1787) and Of the Strength of Acids (1791), both written by Richard Kirwan, who opposed Lavoisier’s theory of oxygen. Her translations of these works were published in 1788 and 1792, respectively, the former with her preface and both with her translator’s notes containing brief refutations of Kirwan’s arguments. In the manuscript of the later work, however, the notes are written in Lavoisier’s hand. The manuscript of the earlier work has not been found. The identity of the true author of these notes remains a mystery. What is certain is that the Republic of Letters treated Paulze-Lavoisier as an intellectual who was worthy of having authored the notes. The savants received by Paulze-Lavoisier in her own salon were dazzled by the brilliance of this woman’s clear exposition of the theories of her husband.
After Lavoisier and her father were executed as farmers-general in 1794 during the Terror, Paulze-Lavoisier edited and published his posthumous writings as the Mémoires de physique et de chimie (1805), with a preface praising her late husband. That same year, Paulze-Lavoisier remarried. Her new husband was the American expatriate Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, a proponent of an early dynamical theory of heat. She thereby acquired the title of countess, but her relationship with her new husband quickly broke down, and her scientific activity came to an end in 1805. The Countess Lavoisier de Rumford thereafter devoted herself to social life, holding salons reminiscent of the period before the Revolution, when she had planned elegant intellectual events, such as those that emblematized the overturning of phlogiston, and basked in the acclamation of the savants. She is said to have kept this eighteenth-century salon style alive until her death in 1836 at age seventy-eight.
Some manuscripts of translations are held in the Fonds Lavoisier, Archives de l’Académie des Sciences, Paris.
WORKS BY PAULZE-LAVOISIER
Translation, preface, and three translator’s notes to Richard Kirwan, Essai sur le phlogistique et sur la constitution des acides, traduit de l’anglais, avec des notes de MM. de Morveau, Lavoisier, de la Place, Monge, Berthollet et de Fourcroy. Paris, 1788.
Copperplate illustrations to Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, Traité élémentaire de chimie. Paris, 1789.
Translation and four translator’s notes to Richard Kirwan, “De la force des acides et de la proportion des substances qui composent les sels neutres.” “Suite du Mémoire sur la force des acides et sur la proportion des substances qui composent les sels neutres.” Annales de Chimie 14 (July 1792): 152–211, 238–286.
Dénonciation presentée au Comité de législation de la Convention nationale, contre le représentant du Peuple Dupin; par les Veuves et Enfans soussignés des ci-devant Fermiers Généraux. Paris: Chez Du Pont, l’An III de la République (22 messidor), 1795. Written with George Montcloux fils, Pignon, veuve de La Haye & Papillon-Sannois, fils de Papillon-Autroche.
Addition à la Dénonciation presentée au Comité de législation; contre le représentant du Peuple Dupin; par les Veuves et Enfans soussignés des ci-devant Fermiers Généraux. Paris: Chez Du Pont, l’An III de la République (7 thermidor), 1795. Written with George Montcloux fils, Pignon, veuve de La Haye & Papillon-Sannois, fils de Papillon-Autroche.
Seconde addition à la Dénonciation presentée au Comité de législation; contre le représentant du Peuple Dupin; par les Veuves et Enfans soussignés des ci-devant Fermiers Généraux. Paris: Chez Du Pont, l’An III de la République (7 thermidor), 1795. Written with George Montcloux fils, Pignon, veuve de La Haye & Papillon-Sannois, fils de Papillon-Autroche.
Editor and preface to Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, Mémoires de physique et de chimie. 2 vols. Paris, 1805.
Beretta, Marco. “Lavoisier and His Last Printed Work: The Mémoire de physique et de chimie(1805).” Annals of Science58, no. 4 (2001): 327–356.
Blatin, Suzanne. “Un amour physique et chimique.” Historia 356 (July 1976): 98–107.
Dujarric de la Rivière, René. Dames de la Revolution. Pérgueux, France: Fanlac, 1963.
Duveen, Denis I. “Madame Lavoisier.” Chymia 4 (1953): 13–29.
———, and Lucien Scheler. “Des illustrations inédites pour les
Mémoires de chimie, ouvrage postumes de Lavoiser.” Revue d’Histoire des Sciences 12 (1959): 345–353.
Gillispie, Charles Coulston. “Notice biographique de Lavoisier par Madame Lavoisier.” Revue d’Histoire des Sciences et Leur Applications 9 (1956): 52–61.
Goupil, Michelle. “Madame Lavoisier.” In Oeuvres de Lavoisier, Correspondance. Vol. 5, edited by Michelle Goupil. Paris: Académie des Sciences, 1997.
Guizot, François. Madame de Rumford. Paris: Crapelet, 1841.
Kawashima, Keiko. “Madame Lavoisier: Assistante invisible d’une communauté scientifique.” Bulletin of Nagoya Institute of Technology 47 (1995): 249–259. Written in French.
———. “Madame du Châtelet et Madame Lavoisier, deux femmes de science.” La Revue, Musée des Arts et Métiers(March 1998): 22–29.
———. “Madame Lavoisier et la traduction française de l’ Essay on phlogiston de Kirwan.” Revue d’Histoire des Sciences53, no. 2 (2000): 253–263.
———. “Madame Lavoisier et l’Essai sur le phlogistiquei.”Bulletin of Nagoya Institute of Technology 55 (2003): 159–161.Written in French.
———. “Madame Lavoisier: Participation of a salonière in the Chemical Revolution.” In Lavoisier in Perspective, edited by Marco Beretta. Munich, Germany: Deutsches Museum, 2005.
Perrin, Carleton. “The Lavoisier-Bucquet Collaboration: A Conjecture.” Ambix36, no. 1 (1989): 5–13.
Pinault-Sørensen, Madeleine. “Madame Lavoisier, dessinatrice et peintre.” La Revue, Musée des Arts et Métiers 6 (March 1994): 23–25.
Poirier, Jean-Pierre. “Madame Lavoisier.” Actualité Chimique2(March–April 1994): 44–47.
———. “Madame Lavoisier.” In his Histoire des femmes de science en France. Paris: Pygmalion, 2002.
———. La science et l’amour, Madame Lavoisier. Paris: Pygmalion, 2004.
Scheler, Lucien. “Deux lettres inédites de Madame Lavoisier.”Revue d’Histoire des Sciences et Leurs Applications 38 (1985): 121–130.