Franklin-Lavoisier Prize

The Franklin-Lavoisier Prize is the Science History Institute’s first international award. Named for Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and Benjamin Franklin, two of the 18th century’s greatest minds, this prize recognizes unusually meritorious efforts in the preservation or promotion of the entwined scientific heritage of France and the United States.

The Franklin-Lavoisier Prize acknowledges commendable work in the preservation and highlighting of any aspect of our common scientific or industrial heritage in the fields of chemistry and its related applications, the promotion of the history of the chemical and molecular sciences and industries, or the fostering of closer Franco-American ties and the promotion of significant activities in the chemical sciences or industries. Cosponsored by the Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie and the Science History Institute, the two organizations seek to promote public understanding of Franco-American relations in modern and historical science, industry, and economics.

Accompanied by a monetary award of €15,000, the Franklin-Lavoisier Prize is awarded alternately in the United States and France every two years.

2018 Awardee: Comité Lavoisier

The Science History Institute and the Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie will present the Franklin-Lavoisier Prize to Patrice Bret, general secretary of the Comité Lavoisier, on the committtee’s behalf on October 18, 2018.


Comité Lavoisier

Comité Lavoisier

The Comité Lavoisier, created in 1948 by the Académie des Sciences and reorganized in 1980, preserves and publishes the correspondence of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Seven volumes have already been produced (1955–2012)—the eighth one is in preparation—and an effort is under way to make some of the correspondence accessible on the internet.

These volumes provide an in-depth look at the birth and development of the Chemical Revolution at the end of the 18th century. The scientific rigor used in preparing the books, the detail-oriented control of sources, and the authenticity of documents combine to create a high-quality reference tool. The precision of the notes and the quality and richness of the appendices make the volumes a cornerstone for anyone studying Lavoisier, chemistry, and scientific life in his time.

The Comité Lavoisier has saved for posterity not only the content of Lavoisier’s correspondence but also the physical papers, drawn from archives around the world. The Comité has brought attention to the intrinsic and material value of the documents and the need for upkeep and preservation. The Comité also pays careful attention to the inventory, preservation, and diffusion of Lavoisier’s material heritage, including his re-created laboratory in the Musée des Arts et Métiers, his mineralogical collection in the Musée Henri-Lecoq in Clermont-Ferrand, and the Fonds Lavoisier in the Archives de l’Académie des Sciences. The Comité works to preserve all related documents and objects to demonstrate Lavoisier’s multiple activities and their connections to a broader domain outside chemistry.

The Comité Lavoisier is chaired by Jacques Livage. Henri Kagan is past president.

Patrice Bret, general secretary of the Comité Lavoisier, will be accepting the award on the Comité’s behalf. Bret edited volumes VI (1789–1791) and VII (1792–1794) published in 1997 and 2012, respectively, and is currently editing volume VIII (Supplement, 1761–1794).

Looking at Lavoisier: A Meeting Connected to the Presentation of the Franklin-Lavoisier Prize

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.

In conjunction with the presentation of the 2018 Franklin-Lavoisier Prize to the Comité Lavoisier, the Science History Institute is hosting a day-long seminar centered on the correspondence of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Please see below for a list of speakers. Register to attend here.

Program Highlights

The Savant, the Gasometer, and the Instrument Maker: Lavoisier’s Last Exchange of Letters Dealing with Chemistry, November 1793
Patrice Bret (Comité Lavoisier, Editor of Lavoisier’s Correspondence)


The Catalogue of the Lavoisier Collection of Scientific Instruments: A Work in Progress
Paolo Brenni (Italian National Research Council)


“Taking Nature as a Guide”: Lavoisier in the Laboratory and in the Field, 1763–1768
Louise Palmer (Fairfield University)


A Look from Below: Karel Van Bochaute and the New Chemistry in the Southern Low Countries
Brigitte Van Tiggelen (Science History Institute)


Lavoisier’s Reception in Scotland
Robert G. W. Anderson (Science History Institute)


Priestley in America—the French Connection
Mary Ellen Bowden (Science History Institute)


Lavoisier’s Chemisry in Philadelphia: A Postscript
Robert G. W. Anderson (Science History Institute)


Summing Up and Roundtable Discussion
Robert Fox (Oxford University, emeritus)


Robert Anderson is the president and CEO of the Science History Institute. Former director of the British Museum, he also serves as chair of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry and is a member of the Institute’s Board of Directors.


Mary Ellen Bowden is senior research fellow at the Science History Institute and has consulted at Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, for many years.


Paolo Brenni studied experimental physics at the University of Zürich and graduated in 1981. He specialized in the history of scientific instruments and of their trade. He is a researcher at the Italian National Research Council and collaborates with the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica in Florence and with various museums both in Italy and abroad. He catalogued, reorganized, and restored several collections of instruments and has authored many articles. He is president of the Scientific Instrument Society.


Patrice Bret is a member of the Centre Alexandre Koyré and formerly led the Département d’Histoire du Centre des Hautes Études de l’Armement. Aiming at a social and cultural history of sciences (chemistry and mineralogy) and technologies (in particular military) in France and in the broader colonial context of Egypt and New Spain, mainly at the turn of the 19th century (1800), his research focuses on discovery, invention, and expertise in the frame of scientific networks, practices, and institutions. He is particularly interested in the structures of communication and has devoted considerable time to the cataloguing and editing scientific work and correspondence of savants, of which Lavoisier is only one example.


Robert Fox is the emeritus professor of the history of science at Oxford University and a former Cain Distinguished Fellow at the Science History Institute (then Chemical Heritage Foundation). His latest book, Science without Frontiers: Cosmopolitanism and National Interests in the World of Learning, 1870–1940 (Oregon State University Press, 2016), is based on public lectures he gave as a Horning Visiting Scholar at Oregon State University in May 2013. Other recent publications include The Savant and the State: Science and Cultural Politics in Nineteenth-Century France (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012); Thomas Harriot and His World: Mathematics, Exploration, and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern England (Routledge, 2017; and The Oxford Handbook of the History of Physics (Oxford University Press, 2013), edited by him with Jed Buchwald. In 2016 he received the George Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society and the Alexandre Koyré Medal of the International Academy of the History of Science.


Louise Palmer received her doctorate in the history of medicine and science and her master’s degree in chemistry from Yale University. She currently teaches courses in the history of science and the history of American medicine at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.


Brigitte Van Tiggelen is the Science History Institute’s director of European operations, working from the Institute’s office in Paris. She started her career in the history of chemistry with a PhD devoted to the Chemical Revolution in the southern Low Countries.

Previous Winners of the Franklin-Lavoisier Prize

  • Lawrence M. Principe (2016)
  • Fred Aftalion (2014)
  • Maurice Hamon (2012)
  • Philippe Walter (2010)
  • Robin J. H. Clark (2008)

About the Sponsor

La Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie was founded in 1928, in Paris, with the goal of building and maintaining a central meeting and working space to promote the popularization of science and was organized for the service of chemists worldwide. To fulfill this mission, the organization provides a number of services and activities to facilitate cooperation among all those working to promote chemistry as one of the basic disciplines of science and technology.