Jan Baptist van Helmont, 1579 - 1644

Jan Baptist van Helmont is famous as one of the first modern scientists.  He was attracted by the Stoic philosophy and by the Jesuits, and at one point refused to take his degree of Master of Arts, fearing that it would be a source of pride.  He investigated gases, especially carbon dioxide, and discovered or investigated sulphuric acid, nitric acid, and nitrogen oxide.  He is credited with being the first to apply the name "gas" (Geist) to this family of substances.  Van Helmont is noted for performing the first scientific experiments in chemistry and thereby initiating the transition from alchemy to modern chemistry.