ca. 1800–1848: Après Le Déluge

  • Cathy Cobb
  • Harold Goldwhite


Louis XV, whose reign preceded the French Revolution, is said to have commented, “Après moi le déluge”: After me, the deluge. In the history of chemistry we might say, “After the deluge, the deluge”: After the chemical revolution of Lavoisier and the political revolution of France, the number of chemical discoveries—new elements and new laws to describe their interactions—increased dramatically. The French Revolution was a setback for the French Academy of Sciences, but it did little to slow the growth of scientific societies in general. In the 1800s they sprang up in England, France, Prussia, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Spain, Mexico, and the newly united United States. The French Academy itself was reorganized as part of the Institute of France, and it soon regained its former strength. The French Revolution also cut short Lavoisier’s career, but it did little to slow down French science. In fact the revolution promoted chemistry in an unexpected way by furthering the career of a new patron of the sciences: a short, crass-mannered, ill-tempered army general who cheated at cards, Napoleon Bonaparte.


French Revolution Calcium Chloride Solution Potassium Chlorate French Academy Chemical Revolution 
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    Aaron J. Ihde, The Development of Modern Chemistry (Harper & Row, New York, 1964), p. 100.Google Scholar
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    J. R. Partington, A Short History of Chemistry, 3d ed. (Macmillan, New York, 1957), p. 171.Google Scholar
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    Stephen F. Mason, A History of the Sciences (Collier, New York, 1962), p. 475.Google Scholar
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    Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 14, Charles Coulston Gillispie, ed. (Scribner’s, New York, 1976), p. 69.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 77.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 68.Google Scholar
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    J. R. Partington, A Short History of Chemistry, 3d ed. (Macmillan, New York, 1957), p. 198.Google Scholar
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    Mary Elvira Weeks and Henry M. Leicester, Discovery of the Elements, 7th ed. (Journal of Chemical Education, Austin, TX, 1968), p. 315.Google Scholar

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© Cathy Cobb and Harold Goldwhite 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathy Cobb
  • Harold Goldwhite

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