An obsolete theory of combustion in which all flammable objects were supposed to contain a substance called → phlogiston, which was released when the object burned. The existence of this hypothetical substance was proposed in 1669 by Johann Becher, who called it terra pinguis "fat earth." For example, as wood burns it releases phlogiston into the air, leaving ash behind. Ash was therefore wood minus phlogiston. In the early 18th century Georg Stahl renamed the substance phlogiston. The theory was disproved by Antoine Lavoisier in 1783, who proved the principle of conservation of mass, refuted the phlogiston theory and proposed the oxygen theory of burning.