Bring me the Head of Chemistry

We Brits conveniently forget that, over the course of history, there have been a handful of great Europeans who can only be described as, well, French.

Laplace, he was one of theirs. So were Pasteur, Cuvier, Clouseau, and Curie—oh, hang on, she was really Polish—erm, I'm beginning to struggle…

M. (droit) et Mme (gauche) Lavoisier avec leurs aides matrimoniales.

Oh, that's right, Antoine Lavoisier, I was going to write about Antoine Lavoisier!

Antoine Lavoisier wasn't your typical Frenchman. He was a tip-top scientist, most noted on this side of La Manche for performing le coup de grâce on the frankly silly (although I rather like it) phlogiston theory, and naming (but most definitely not discovering) the elements hydrogen and oxygen (the latter theme later being developed by Lavoisier's compatriot, Jean-Michel Jarre).

Phlogiston wasn't the only crap theory debunked by Lavoisier. With the help of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (after whom they named the guillotine—of which, more later) and Benjamin Franklin (of reckless kite-flying fame), he comprehensively debunked Franz Mesmer's totally bonkers theory of animal magnetism.

So, all-in-all, a thoroughly good chap, whatever his nationality.

Why am I telling you all this science stuff? Because, on this very day in 1794, during France's 13-month Reign of Terror, Antoine Lavoisier was tried, convicted and executed by guillotine in one fell swoop (and one foul swipe). His capital crime: being a tax collector.

Hey, now there's an idea to conjure with!

Afterthought: If anyone has any idea why we say beheaded and not de-headed, please post them in the comments.

Filed under: Nonsense

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. Behead
    O.E. beheafdian, from be-, with privative force, + heafod (see head).
    be- weak form of O.E. bi "by," probably cognate with second syllable of Gk. amphi, L. ambi and originally meaning "about." ... Be- can also be privative (cf. behead), causative, or have just about any sense required.

    1 : an act or instance of depriving : DEPRIVATION
    2 : the state of being deprived; especially : lack of what is needed for existence

  2. You really ought to write something about another scientist,Erwin Hubble, he of the Space Telescope and Satellite fame. As many Americans he became an ardent, table thumping Anglophile after winning a Rhodes Scholarship and returned to the USA and proceeded to attire himself like an English country gentleman, i.e. in tweeds, plus fours, smoking a pipe and punctuating 'What ho" and " Tally Ho" at various moments appropriate moments of surprise.

  3. also...why do we always prefix 'cup of tea' with 'a nice', and not do the same with coffee? "Fancy a nice pint of beer, George?"

  4. The reason it's not 'a white big house' is that people might mistake you for Jonathan Ross.

    As for 'nice' in the context of tea and beer, I have a hypothesis: Tea is 'nice'. Beer isn't. Thats it.

    And if you don't believe me, ask several of your mates the question "Do you think beer is 'nice'?" and see what response you get.

  5. I don't get what Mr. Titcher means. Tea is pants... Beer is life...and he also avoided the coffee issue....or maybe he was busy bewing himself a NICE cup of leaf juice?

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