The Weight of Heat

The chemist Lavoisier actually tried to weigh heat; he found it was weightless.

Dalton and Atomic Weights

With a firm belief in atoms, impressive physical insight and armed with a few simple rules, Dalton was able to construct a table of relative weights, which he first presented in 1803 at a talk to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester. In 1805, this effort first appeared in print, with a systematic explanation of the method appearing in 1808 when Dalton published the first volume of his book A New System of Chemical Philosophy. Here, with hydrogen as his reference, he gave the following relative weights: hydrogen (H) 1; nitrogen (N) 5; carbon (C) 5.4; oxygen (O) 7; phosphorus (P) 9; sulfur (S) 13 and so on, including several elements and compounds.

Lavoisier on Constant Mass

In 1789, Lavoisier showed that the total mass during the course of a chemical reaction is unchanged. Rather the atoms simply “reorganize” themselves, kind of like the reshuffling of deck or cards.

Lavoisier’s 33 Elements

In 1789, Lavoisier published An Elementary Treatise on Chemistry where he describes 33 elements. The list begins with caloric and continues with light, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen.