Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) was beheaded during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. The judge apparently said while delivering his verdict that the revolution did not need scientists and chemists. Nevertheless, Lavoisier was a very accomplished person that found out, among other things, after having co-discovered oxygen 1773, that biological organisms where driven by combustion.
This discovery is one of the great ones of the scientific revolution. It was now possible to ask the question how and start working. It gave rise to a tremendous amount of important work. No "vital principle" was needed for life. Life had become demystified and people where emancipated. The ironic question to pose was if not Lavoisier's idea helped propel the revolution by this liberalism from divine influence, evil spirits and the like.
Lavoisier's idea, however, came late in the enlightenment of the 18th century and perhaps disappeared in the turmoil of revolution and war followed by the cultural reaction romanticism. Enzymes, the engines of biologic combustion, where not discovered until the end of the 19th century in France by Pasteur and Germany by Buchner. People were seemingly lost in the more spiritual electromagnetism that arrived from Italy in the 1780s by Galvani and Volta and Denmark 1820 by Oerstedt.
The last decades have featured a development where people gradually have lost the control of their bodies. Thus in a time which could be called a new enlightenment, with the neo-Gutenberg event of the invention of the personal computer and its operative system, Google and Wikipedia, loss of personal integrity and the contraption of the soul and the body runs counter to this development. Will their effects cancel out or do we find that enlightenment wins out?
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