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An acid–base reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between an acid and a base. It can be used to determine pH. Several theoretical frameworks provide alternative conceptions of the reaction mechanisms and their application in solving related problems; these are called the acid–base theories, for example, Brønsted–Lowry acid–base theory.
Their importance becomes apparent in analyzing acid–base reactions for gaseous or liquid species, or when acid or base character may be somewhat less apparent. The first of these concepts was provided by the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, around 1776.
It is important to think of the acid-base reaction models as theories that complement each other. For example, the current Lewis model has the broadest definition of what an acid and base are, with the Bronsted-Lowry theory being a subset of what acids and bases are, and the Arrhenius theory being the most restrictive.
The first scientific concept of acids and bases was provided by Lavoisier in around 1776. Since Lavoisier’s knowledge of strong acids was mainly restricted to oxoacids, such as HNO3 (nitric acid) and H2SO4 (sulfuric acid), which tend to contain central atoms in high oxidation states surrounded by oxygen, and since he was not aware of the true composition of the hydrohalic acids (HF, HCl, HBr, and HI), he defined acids in terms of their containing oxygen, which in fact he named from Greek words meaning “acid-former” (from the Greek οξυς (oxys) meaning “acid” or “sharp” and γεινομαι (geinomai) meaning “engender”). The Lavoisier definition held for over 30 years, until the 1810 article and subsequent lectures by Sir Humphry Davy in which he proved the lack of oxygen in H2S, H2Te, and the hydrohalic acids. However, Davy failed to develop a new theory, concluding that “acidity does not depend upon any particular elementary substance, but upon peculiar arrangement of various substances”. One notable modification of oxygen theory was provided by Jöns Jacob Berzelius, who stated that acids are oxides of nonmetals while bases are oxides of metals.