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Dictionary of World Biography
the Canadian parliament in 1873. In 1887 he became
leader of the Liberals and Prime Minister 1896–1911,
being the first French-Canadian to lead a national
government. His period of office was one of prosperity
and expansion, especially in the wheat-growing
provinces in the west. The issue on which he finally fell,
in the election of 1911, was his support for commercial
reciprocity with the US. He led the anti-conscriptionist
wing of his party in World War I. His political (and
legal) heir was W. L. Mackenzie *King.
Schull. J., Laurier. 1966.
Lautrec, Henri Toulouse see Toulouse Lautrec,
La Vallière, Louise Françoise de la Beaume le Blanc,
Duchesse de (1644–1710). French mistress. She was
only 17 when *Louis XIV first saw her and fell in
love. By her sweetness and sincerity, coupled with a
lack of ambition or greed, she won – to everyone’s
surprise – the admiration of the court. When
supplanted by Madame de *Montespan (1674), she
departed without rancour to the Carmelite convent
where she spent the rest of her life. Only one of her
three children by Louis survived her.
Laval, Pierre (1883–1945). French politician, born
in the Auvergne. Possibly of Moorish descent, he was
largely self-educated but won academic degrees, and
became a lawyer, small businessman and publisher.
He was a member of the Chamber of Deputies 1914–
19, originally a radical, pacifist and socialist then an
independent deputy 1924–27 and Senator 1927–44.
He became a premier 1931–32, 1935–36 and as
Foreign Minister 1934–36 negotiated the *HoareLaval Pact (1935), accepting Italy’s occupation of
Ethiopia. He advocated friendship with Italy and
Germany. After the collapse of France he took a
leading part in the establishment of Marshal *Pétain’s
Vichy regime, was Premier briefly (1940) until forced
out by Pétain who detested him. In April 1942 he
became Prime Minister again in active collaboration
with the Germans: he set up the notorious French
milicia with its Gestapo-like activities and supplied
conscript labour for German factories. After the
liberation of France he fled to Germany and then
to Spain. He was repatriated, tried, condemned
and executed for treason. Laval was ambitious,
persuasive and subtle. He may have deluded himself
that by his appeasement he preserved some degree
of independence for Vichy France; in fact, he went
further than the Germans expected.
Cole, H., Laval. 1963.
Laveran, (Charles Louis) Alphonse (1845–1922).
French parasitologist. He served as a military surgeon
in Algeria and in 1880 discovered the parasite that
causes malaria. He established the laboratory of
tropical diseases at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, in
1907, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine (1907) and
published 600 research papers.
Lavigerie, Charles Martial Allemand (1825–1892).
French cardinal. After teaching at the Sorbonne,
he became Archbishop of Algiers 1867, and also of
Carthage (now Tunis) in 1884, and took a leading
role in organising international opposition to slavery
in central Africa.
Lavoisier, Antoine-Laurent (1743–1794). French
chemist, born in Paris. In 1768 he invested heavily
in the ‘Ferme générale’, a private syndicate that
collected taxes on behalf of the crown, retaining a
percentage, and this provided him with funds to
pursue scientific research. Elected to the Académie
de Sciences (1768), he directed the Gunpowder
Office 1776–91. He also made practical use of his
scientific knowledge in agriculture and acquired
an estate for experimental purposes. Lavoisier
has been called the father of modern chemistry.
By his experimental work he not only made many
new discoveries but refuted the long-held belief that
water could be converted into earth and the current
theory that the existence of an invisible, inflammable
gas, phlogiston, explained many of the problems of
combustion. His own experiments showed that air
was composed of two gases, which he called oxygen
and ‘azote’ (later known as nitrogen), and that oxygen
played an essential role in the respiration of animals
and plants. In 1783, almost simultaneously with
*Cavendish and *Priestley, he announced that water
is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. He wrote
the important Opuscules physiques et chymiques (1774)
and constructed the first table of elements. Methods
of Chemical Nomenclature (1787), written with
the assistance of *Berthollet and *Fourcroy, coined
about 30 names still in use for elements. In 1789,
he proposed the law of the conservation of mass –
essentially that matter is neither created nor destroyed,
but is transformed in the course of chemical changes.
By burning, for example, coal is converted into carbon
dioxide, other gases and particulates, but the total
mass is conserved. Although mass cannot be created or
destroyed, it may be rearranged in space and changed
into different types of particles. (This is a central
premise in the argument for anthropogenic global
warming.) By burning objects in a sealed chamber he
established that combustion was accompanied by the
chemical combination of oxygen with the substance
burned (creating what became known as oxides).
After the Revolution he played a leading part in the
establishment of the metric system. He was a liberal
constitutionalist, believed in social reform, and played
his part in the various Revolutionary assemblies, but
he had made powerful scientific enemies, including
*Marat. His previous role as tax farmer led to his arrest
and condemnation during the Terror. Appeals to delay
his guillotining met with the chilling (but authentic)
response: ‘The Revolution has no need of scientists.’
McKie, D., Antoine Lavoisier: Scientist, Economist,
Social Reformer. 1952; Donovan, A., Antoine Lavoisier:
Science, Administration and Revolution. 1993; Poiner,
J-P., Lavoisier. 1996; Smartt, Bell, M., Lavoisier in the
Year One. 2005.