• Vaclav Smil
Part of the Modern Perspectives in Energy book series (MPIE)


When Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was sorting out the composition of air—in those happy days before Marat’s guillotine when he was a celebrated scientist self-assuredly posing with his impeccably dressed wife for David—he used what soon appeared to be an astonishing misnomer to christen the gas which makes up nearly four-fifths of the earth’s atmosphere: azot, “without life.” Classical inorganic chemistry provides, especially in contrast to oxygen, easy justification for viewing the gas in such a way: after all, it is not only odorless and colorless but it is also nonreactive under normal biospheric conditions, nonflammable, nonexplosive, and nontoxic, “nonvital air” left behind in Lavoisier’s combustion experiments.


Crop Residue Nitrogen Oxide Tropical Rain Forest Nitrogen Loss Animal Waste 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vaclav Smil
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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