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Lavoisier's mercury experiment on air. Early engraving showing the apparatus used by Antoine Lavoisier (1743-94) to demonstrate the formation of metal oxides. Mercury was placed in the retort at left, the end of which led to an air chamber in a bell jar over mercury (right). The retort was gently heated over 12 days. A reddish compound formed on the mercury in the retort, and the volume of air in the bell jar decreased. The remaining gas extinguished a flame. This showed that oxygen had been removed from the air. The red compound, on heating, released mercury and generated a gas which supported combustion and would support life (oxygen).
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