#amwriting The Telegraph Creative Writing Group July Competition has ‘Ocean Crossing’ as its theme. ‘The Immortal Lavoisier’ is based on the connection between E I du Pont, the founder of the famous American chemical company, and Antoine and Marie Lavoisier who were his mentors as a student of chemistry in Paris, at a time when the sciences of chemistry, applied chemistry and chemical engineering were just coming to life, only to be tragically interrupted by the French Revolution. Lavoisier was at that time an acclaimed scientist, the Einstein of his day; his wife had considerable experience in the chemistry laboratory, and in writing and illustrating scientific papers.
I have used as much as I can gather from historical sources and imagined conversations that might have taken place between du Pont and the Lavoisiers. He kept no record of these, although the Lavoisiers are often mentioned in the family correspondence. But it is certain that he printed the Memoires de Chimie at that time and that he also printed the defence of the Fermiers-Generaux. Lavoisier was of great importance to him and his family, and his original idea for the gunpowder mills at Brandywine Creek was to name them the Lavoisier Mills. So it is not unreasonable to imagine that he would have visited Lavoisier during his imprisonment, or the kinds of conversations they may have had.
The link between the story and the month’s theme is du Pont’s emigration across the Atlantic, and the reasons for his journey. The decision to emigrate is never taken lightly; what courage or desperation must it take to leave behind a familiar world to seek one’s fortune in an alien land? It takes ability and self-belief. We should respect the immigrants who seek shelter with us – amongst them may be the du Ponts of the 21st century.