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Member of the Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Medicine, and
Agricultural Society of Paris, of the Royal Society of London, and
Philosophical Societies of Orleans, Bologna, Basil, Philadelphia,
Haerlem, Manchester, &c. &c.



Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Surgeon to the Orphan
Hospital of Edinburgh.



Transcriber's note: Tables needed to be split to fit space
constraints. Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the
end of the chapters. The italic markup for single italized
letters (such as variables in equations) and weight abbreviations are
deleted for easier reading.


The very high character of Mr Lavoisier as a chemical philosopher, and
the great revolution which, in the opinion of many excellent chemists,
he has effected in the theory of chemistry, has long made it much
desired to have a connected account of his discoveries, and of the new
theory he has founded upon the modern experiments written by himself.
This is now accomplished by the publication of his Elements of
Chemistry; therefore no excuse can be at all necessary for giving the
following work to the public in an English dress; and the only
hesitation of the Translator is with regard to his own abilities for the
task. He is most ready to confess, that his knowledge of the composition
of language fit for publication is far inferior to his attachment to
the subject, and to his desire of appearing decently before the judgment
of the world.

He has earnestly endeavoured to give the meaning of the Author with the
most scrupulous fidelity, having paid infinitely greater attention to
accuracy of translation than to elegance of stile. This last indeed, had
he even, by proper labour, been capable of attaining, he has been
obliged, for very obvious reasons, to neglect, far more than accorded
with his wishes. The French copy did not reach his hands before the
middle of September; and it was judged necessary by the Publisher that
the Translation should be ready by the commencement of the University
Session at the end of October.

He at first intended to have changed all the weights and measures used
by Mr Lavoisier into their correspondent English denominations, but,
upon trial, the task was found infinitely too great for the time
allowed; and to have executed this part of the work inaccurately, must
have been both useless and misleading to the reader. All that has been
attempted in this way is adding, between brackets ( ), the degrees of
Fahrenheit's scale corresponding with those of Reaumeur's thermometer,
which is used by the Author. Rules are added, however, in the Appendix,
for converting the French weights and measures into English, by which
means the reader may at any time calculate such quantities as occur,
when desirous of comparing Mr Lavoisier's experiments with those of
British authors.

By an oversight, the first part of the translation went to press without
any distinction being preserved between charcoal and its simple
elementary part, which enters into chemical combinations, especially
with oxygen or the acidifying principle, forming carbonic acid. This
pure element, which exists in great plenty in well made charcoal, is
named by Mr Lavoisier _carbone_, and ought to have been so in the
translation; but the attentive reader can very easily rectify the
mistake. There is an error in Plate XI. which the engraver copied
strictly from the original, and which was not discovered until the plate
was worked off at press, when that part of the Elements which treats of
the apparatus there represented came to be translated. The two tubes 21.
and 24. by which the gas is conveyed into the bottles of alkaline
solution 22. 25. should have been made to dip into the liquor, while the
other tubes 23. and 26. which carry off the gas, ought to have been cut
off some way above the surface of the liquor in the bottles.

A few explanatory notes are added; and indeed, from the perspicuity of
the Author, very few were found necessary. In a very small number of
places, the liberty has been taken of throwing to the bottom of the
page, in notes, some parenthetical expressions, only relative to the
subject, which, in their original place, tended to confuse the sense.
These, and the original notes of the Author, are distinguished by the
letter A, and to the few which the Translator has ventured to add, the
letter E is subjoined.

Mr Lavoisier has added, in an Appendix, several very useful Tables for
facilitating the calculations now necessary in the advanced state of
modern chemistry, wherein the most scrupulous accuracy is required. It
is proper to give some account of these, and of the reasons for omitting
several of them.

No. I. of the French Appendix is a Table for converting ounces, gros,
and grains, into the decimal fractions of the French pound; and No. II.
for reducing these decimal fractions again into the vulgar subdivisions.
No. III. contains the number of French cubical inches and decimals which
correspond to a determinate weight of water.

The Translator would most readily have converted these Tables into
English weights and measures; but the necessary calculations must have
occupied a great deal more time than could have been spared in the
period limited for publication. They are therefore omitted, as
altogether useless, in their present state, to the British chemist.

No. IV. is a Table for converting lines or twelfth parts of the inch,
and twelfth parts of lines, into decimal fractions, chiefly for the
purpose of making the necessary corrections upon the quantities of
gasses according to their barometrical pressure. This can hardly be at
all useful or necessary, as the barometers used in Britain are graduated
in decimal fractions of the inch, but, being referred to by the Author
in the text, it has been retained, and is No. I. of the Appendix to
this Translation.

No. V. Is a Table for converting the observed heights of water within
the jars used in pneumato-chemical experiments into correspondent
heights of mercury for correcting the volume of gasses. This, in Mr
Lavoisier's Work, is expressed for the water in lines, and for the
mercury in decimals of the inch, and consequently, for the reasons given
respecting the Fourth Table, must have been of no use. The Translator
has therefore calculated a Table for this correction, in which the water
is expressed in decimals, as well as the mercury. This Table is No. II.
of the English Appendix.

No. VI. contains the number of French cubical inches and decimals
contained in the corresponding ounce-measures used in the experiments of
our celebrated countryman Dr Priestley. This Table, which forms No. III.
of the English Appendix, is retained, with the addition of a column, in
which the corresponding English cubical inches and decimals are

No. VII. Is a Table of the weights of a cubical foot and inch, French
measure, of the different gasses expressed in French ounces, gros,
grains, and decimals. This, which forms No. VI. of the English Appendix,
has been, with considerable labour, calculated into English weight and

No. VIII. Gives the specific gravities of a great number of bodies, with
columns, containing the weights of a cubical foot and inch, French
measure, of all the substances. The specific gravities of this Table,
which is No. VII. of the English Appendix, are retained, but the
additional columns, as useless to the British philosopher, are omitted;
and to have converted these into English denominations must have
required very long and painful calculations.

Rules are subjoined, in the Appendix to this translation, for converting
all the weights and measures used by Mr Lavoisier into corresponding
English denominations; and the Translator is proud to acknowledge his
obligation to the learned Professor of Natural Philosophy in the
University of Edinburgh, who kindly supplied him with the necessary
information for this purpose. A Table is likewise added, No. IV. of the
English Appendix, for converting the degrees of Reaumeur's scale used by
Mr Lavoisier into the corresponding degrees of Fahrenheit, which is
universally employed in Britain[1].

This Translation is sent into the world with the utmost diffidence,
tempered, however, with this consolation, that, though it must fall
greatly short of the elegance, or even propriety of language, which
every writer ought to endeavour to attain, it cannot fail of advancing
the interests of true chemical science, by disseminating the accurate
mode of analysis adopted by its justly celebrated Author. Should the
public call for a second edition, every care shall be taken to correct
the forced imperfections of the present translation, and to improve the
work by valuable additional matter from other authors of reputation in
the several subjects treated of.

Oct. 23. 1789. }


[1] The Translator has since been enabled, by the kind assistance of the
gentleman above alluded to, to give Tables, of the same nature with
those of Mr Lavoisier, for facilitating the calculations of the results
of chemical experiments.


When I began the following Work, my only object was to extend and
explain more fully the Memoir which I read at the public meeting of the
Academy of Sciences in the month of April 1787, on the necessity of
reforming and completing the Nomenclature of Chemistry. While engaged in
this employment, I perceived, better than I had ever done before, the
justice of the following maxims of the Abbé de Condillac, in his System
of Logic, and some other of his works.

"We think only through the medium of words.--Languages are true
analytical methods.--Algebra, which is adapted to its purpose in every
species of expression, in the most simple, most exact, and best manner
possible, is at the same time a language and an analytical method.--The
art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged."

Thus, while I thought myself employed only in forming a Nomenclature,
and while I proposed to myself nothing more than to improve the chemical
language, my work transformed itself by degrees, without my being able
to prevent it, into a treatise upon the Elements of Chemistry.

The impossibility of separating the nomenclature of a science from the
science itself, is owing to this, that every branch of physical science
must consist of three things; the series of facts which are the objects
of the science, the ideas which represent these facts, and the words by
which these ideas are expressed.

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