The Chemist Who Lost His Head is a reflection of developments in the study of scientists in a historical context. The history of science has matured into a vital discipline that has revealed that science is much more than an anonymous body of knowledge, an impersonal collection of data, laws, and principles. Science has come to be seen as a human activity that is highly personal and creative and that functions as an integral part of society. Grey’s book reflects this human, personal aspect of the scientific quest, and the book can help young people to appreciate how science can be an outlet for the creative energies of individuals of unusual intellect and sensitivity.
Lavoisier’s scientific career is not dry, ordered, or methodical but the result of a real, vital person who wondered, doubted, dreamed, tested, and both succeeded and failed in the course of his activity. Grey’s book may therefore convey to a young reader some of the fascination and appeal that science held for Lavoisier and serve as a vehicle for understanding science as a fully human pursuit.
Finally, Lavoisier was a superb choice for a biography of a scientist. He was a productive and creative chemist, and there had been very few juvenile biographies of important chemists and none of Lavoisier. Grey’s book thus filled a real gap. A real human adventure, having two aspects, is described in the course of this book: Lavoisier’s adventure in his laboratory and his adventure in his society.