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Illustration from an 1892 Chemistry book of French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier's (1743-1794) 1776 experiment that revealed the composition of air. Lavoisier heated mercury in a glass retort on a furnace. Red specks appeared on the mercury's surface as it reacted with the air. The remaining gas was inert and is now known to be nitrogen. The red specks, when heated, gave mercury and a combustible gas that Lavoisier named oxygen.
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