"I took an earthen vessel in which I put 200 pounds of soil dried in an oven, and then I moistened with rain water and pressed hard into it a shoot of willow weighing five pounds. After exactly five years the tree that had grown up weighed 169 pounds and about three ounces. But the vessel had never received anything but rain water or distilled water to moisten the soil when this was necessary, and it remained full of soil, which was still tightly packed, and, lest any dust from outside should get into the soil, it was covered with a sheet of iron coated with tin but perforated with many holes. I did not take the weight of the leaves that fell in the autumn. In the end I dried the soil once more and got the same 200 pounds that I started with, less about two ounces. Therefore the 164 pounds of wood bark, and root arose from the water alone." ~ Jan Baptist van Helmont
Jan Baptist van Helmont (bapt. 12 January 1579 – 30 December 1644) was an early modern period Flemish chemist, physiologist, and physician. He worked during the years just after Paracelsus and iatrochemistry, and is sometimes considered to be "the founder of pneumatic chemistry". Van Helmont is remembered today largely for his ideas on spontaneous generation, his 5-year tree experiment, and his introduction of the word "gas" (from the Greek word chaos) into the vocabulary of scientists.