Pierre BayenPierre Bayen
©Pierre Bayen

Pierre Bayen

Pierre Bayen is a pioneer in the discovery of oxygen and is regarded as a key influence in modern chemistry.

He shares his story with you…

Pierre BayenPierre Bayen
Pierre Bayen


Hello, my name is Pierre Bayen

I was born in Châlons on February 7th, 1725. I was a pharmaceutical student in Reims and then in Paris before starting a military career during the Minorca Expedition. I provided significant services, as I am considered to be the leading figure in establishing the military pharmacy, which I served in for 42 years.

I devoted a lot of time to my work in chemistry and was approved as an apothecary and member of the College of Pharmacy in 1766.

In April 1774, I discovered that heating mercury oxide released a gas and a loss in mass. I collected this gas and found that it was slightly denser than air. However, I did not interpret my results further.

A few months later, the Englishman Joseph Priestley carried out the same experiment and quickly published his findings. Lavoisier, who knew of my work, met Priestley and seven months later duplicated our work, realising that dephlogisticated air was a new element that allowed combustion. Oxygen was discovered. I then realised my mistake in not publishing my results and tried, in vain, to claim the patent of this discovery, but it was too late.

I was made a member of the Academy of Sciences and appointed a member of the Institute when it was created in 1795 before becoming Inspector General of the Health Service in 1796. I died in Paris in 1798.

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Where to find me today


113 rue Léon Bourgeois
51000 Châlons-en-Champagne
My father was a baker and this house, dating from the 16th century, still features the typical hatch in the roof through which the sacks of flour were taken up to the loft.


Lycée Pierre Bayen

22 rue du Lycée
51000 Châlons-en-Champagne