Robert Boyle
Overview
 
Robert Boyle FRS  was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

, physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

. He has been variously described as English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

, Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

, or Anglo-Irish
Anglo-Irish
Anglo-Irish was a term used primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries to identify a privileged social class in Ireland, whose members were the descendants and successors of the Protestant Ascendancy, mostly belonging to the Church of Ireland, which was the established church of Ireland until...

, his father having come to Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 during the time of the English plantations of Ireland
Plantations of Ireland
Plantations in 16th and 17th century Ireland were the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands....

.

Although his research clearly has its roots in the alchemical
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 tradition, Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

.
Encyclopedia
Robert Boyle FRS  was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

, physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

. He has been variously described as English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

, Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

, or Anglo-Irish
Anglo-Irish
Anglo-Irish was a term used primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries to identify a privileged social class in Ireland, whose members were the descendants and successors of the Protestant Ascendancy, mostly belonging to the Church of Ireland, which was the established church of Ireland until...

, his father having come to Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 during the time of the English plantations of Ireland
Plantations of Ireland
Plantations in 16th and 17th century Ireland were the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands....

.

Although his research clearly has its roots in the alchemical
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 tradition, Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. He is best known for Boyle's law
Boyle's law
Boyle's law is one of many gas laws and a special case of the ideal gas law. Boyle's law describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system...

, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure
Pressure
Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure.- Definition :...

 and volume
Volume
Volume is the quantity of three-dimensional space enclosed by some closed boundary, for example, the space that a substance or shape occupies or contains....

 of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system
Closed system
-In physics:In thermodynamics, a closed system can exchange energy , but not matter, with its surroundings.In contrast, an isolated system cannot exchange any of heat, work, or matter with the surroundings, while an open system can exchange all of heat, work and matter.For a simple system, with...

. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist
The Sceptical Chymist
The Sceptical Chymist: or Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes is the title of Robert Boyle's masterpiece of scientific literature, published in London in 1661. In the form of a dialogue, the Sceptical Chymist presented Boyle's hypothesis that matter consisted of atoms and clusters of atoms in...

is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.

Early years

Boyle was born in Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle is located in the town of Lismore, in County Waterford in Ireland. It was largely re-built in the Gothic style during the mid-nineteenth century by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire.-Early history:...

, in County Waterford
County Waterford
*Abbeyside, Affane, Aglish, Annestown, An Rinn, Ardmore*Ballinacourty, Ballinameela, Ballinamult, Ballinroad, Ballybeg, Ballybricken, Ballyduff Lower, Ballyduff Upper, Ballydurn, Ballygunner, Ballylaneen, Ballymacarbry, Ballymacart, Ballynaneashagh, Ballysaggart, Ballytruckle, Bilberry, Bunmahon,...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, the seventh son and fourteenth child of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork
Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork
Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork , also known as the Great Earl of Cork, was Lord Treasurer of the Kingdom of Ireland....

 and Catherine Fenton. Richard Boyle arrived in Dublin from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1588 during the Tudor
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

 plantations of Ireland
Plantations of Ireland
Plantations in 16th and 17th century Ireland were the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands....

 and obtained an appointment as a deputy escheator. He had amassed enormous landholdings by the time Robert was born. Catherine Fenton was the daughter of English writer Geoffrey Fenton
Geoffrey Fenton
Sir Geoffrey Fenton was an English writer, Privy Councillor, and Principal Secretary of State in Ireland.-Early literary years:...

, who was born Dublin in 1539, and Alice Weston, the daughter of Robert Weston
Robert Weston
Robert Weston , was Dean of the Arches and Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the time of Queen Elizabeth.Weston was the third son of John Weston of Lichfield and his wife Cicely Neville, sister of Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland. He entered All Souls, Oxford and was elected Fellow in 1536...

, who was born in Lismore
Lismore, County Waterford
Lismore is a town in County Waterford, Ireland. It is located where the N72 road crosses the River Blackwater.-History:It was founded by Saint Mochuda, also known as Saint Carthage. In the 7th century, Lismore was the site of the well-known Lismore Abbey. It is also home to Lismore Castle, the...

 in 1541.

As a child, Robert was fostered
Fosterage
Fosterage, the practice of a family bringing up a child not their own, differs from adoption in that the child's parents, not the foster-parents, remain the acknowledged parents. In many modern western societies foster care can be organised by the state to care for children with troubled family...

 to a local family, as were his elder brothers. Consequently, the eldest of the Boyle children had sufficient Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 at four years of age to act as a translator for his father. Robert received private tutoring in Latin, Greek and French and when he was eight years old, following the death of his mother, he was sent to Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 in England. His father's friend, Sir Henry Wotton
Henry Wotton
Sir Henry Wotton was an English author and diplomat. He is often quoted as saying, "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." -Life:The son of Thomas Wotton , brother of Edward Wotton, 1st Baron Wotton, and grandnephew of the diplomat...

, was then the provost
Provost (education)
A provost is the senior academic administrator at many institutions of higher education in the United States, Canada and Australia, the equivalent of a pro-vice-chancellor at some institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland....

 of the college.

During this time, his father hired a private tutor, Robert Carew, who had knowledge of Irish, to act as private tutor to his sons in Eton. However, "only Mr. Robert sometimes desires it [Irish] and is a little entered in it", but despite the "many reasons" given by Mr. Carew to turn their attentions to it, "they practice the French and Latin but they affect not the Irish". After spending over three years at Eton, Robert traveled abroad with a French tutor. They visited Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 1641 and remained in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 during the winter of that year studying the "paradoxes of the great star-gazer" Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

, who was elderly but still living in 1641.

Middle years

Boyle returned to England from Continental Europe
Continental Europe
Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands....

 in mid-1644 with a keen interest for scientific research. His father had died the previous year and had left him the manor of Stalbridge
Stalbridge
Stalbridge is a small town and civil parish in Dorset, England, situated in the Blackmore Vale area of North Dorset district, near the border with Somerset. In 2001 the town had a population of 2,579, and is still growing. 30.8% of the inhabitants are retired...

 in Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

, England and substantial estates in County Limerick
County Limerick
It is thought that humans had established themselves in the Lough Gur area of the county as early as 3000 BC, while megalithic remains found at Duntryleague date back further to 3500 BC...

 in Ireland that he had acquired. From that time, Robert devoted his life to scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 research and soon took a prominent place in the band of inquirers, known as the "Invisible College
Invisible College
The Invisible College has been described as a precursor group to the Royal Society of London, consisting of a number of natural philosophers around Robert Boyle...

", who devoted themselves to the cultivation of the "new philosophy". They met frequently in London, often at Gresham College
Gresham College
Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in central London, England. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham and today it hosts over 140 free public lectures every year within the City of London.-History:Sir Thomas Gresham,...

, and some of the members also had meetings at Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

.

Having made several visits to his Irish estates beginning in 1647, Robert moved to Ireland in 1652 but became frustrated at his inability to make progress in his chemical work. In one letter, he described Ireland as "a barbarous country where chemical spirits were so misunderstood and chemical instruments so unprocurable that it was hard to have any Hermetic thoughts in it."

In 1654, Boyle left Ireland for Oxford to pursue his work more successfully. An inscription can be found on the wall of University College, Oxford
University College, Oxford
.University College , is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m...

 the High Street
High Street, Oxford
The High Street in Oxford, England runs between Carfax, generally recognized as the centre of the city, and Magdalen Bridge to the east. Locally the street is often known as The High. It forms a gentle curve and is the subject of many prints, paintings, photographs, etc...

 at Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 (now the location of the Shelley Memorial
Shelley Memorial
The Shelley Memorial is a memorial to the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley at University College, Oxford, England, the college that he briefly attended and from which he was expelled for writing a pamphlet on The Necessity of Atheism....

), marking the spot where Cross Hall stood until the early 19th century. It was here that Boyle rented rooms from the wealthy apothecary who owned the Hall.

Reading in 1657 of Otto von Guericke
Otto von Guericke
Otto von Guericke was a German scientist, inventor, and politician...

's air-pump, he set himself with the assistance of Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

 to devise improvements in its construction, and with the result, the "machina Boyleana" or "Pneumatical Engine", finished in 1659, he began a series of experiments on the properties of air. An account of Boyle's work with the air pump was published in 1660 under the title New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air, and its Effects....

Among the critics of the views put forward in this book was a Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

, Francis Line
Francis Line
Francis Line , also known as Linus of Liège, was a Jesuit priest and scientist. He is known for inventing a magnetic clock. He is noted as a contemporary critic of the theories and work of Isaac Newton....

 (1595–1675), and it was while answering his objections that Boyle made his first mention of the law
Boyle's law
Boyle's law is one of many gas laws and a special case of the ideal gas law. Boyle's law describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system...

 that the volume of a gas varies inversely to the pressure of the gas, which among English-speaking people is usually called Boyle's Law after his name. The person that originally formulated the hypothesis was Henry Power in 1661. Boyle included a reference to a paper written by Power, but mistakenly attributed it to Richard Towneley
Richard Towneley
Richard Towneley was an English mathematician and astronomer from Towneley near Burnley, Lancashire. He was one of a group of seventeenth century astronomers in the north of England, which included Jeremiah Horrocks, William Crabtree and William Gascoigne, the pioneer astronomers who laid the...

. In continental Europe the hypothesis is sometimes attributed to Edme Mariotte
Edme Mariotte
Edme Mariotte was a French physicist and priest.- Biography :Edme Mariotte was the youngest son of Simon Mariotte, administrator at the district Til-Châtel , and Catherine Denisot . His parents lived in Til-Châtel and had 4 other children: Jean, Denise, Claude, and Catharine...

, although he did not publish it until 1676 and was likely aware of Boyle's work at the time.

In 1663 the Invisible College became the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, and the charter of incorporation granted by Charles II of England
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

, named Boyle a member of the council. In 1680 he was elected president of the society, but declined the honour from a scruple about oaths.

He made a "wish list" of 24 possible inventions which included "The Prolongation of Life", the "Art of Flying", "perpetual light", "making armor light and extremely hard", "A ship to saile with All Winds, and a Ship not to be sunk", "practicable and certain way of finding Longitudes", "potent druggs to alter or Exalt Imagination, Waking, Memory and other functions and appease pain, procure innocent sleep, harmless dreams etc". They are extraordinary because all but a few of the 24 have come true.

It was during his time at Oxford that Boyle was a Chevalier
Cavalier
Cavalier was the name used by Parliamentarians for a Royalist supporter of King Charles I and son Charles II during the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the Restoration...

. The Chevaliers are thought to have been established by royal order a few years before Boyle's time at Oxford. The early part of Boyle's residence was marked by the actions of the victorious parliamentarian forces, consequently this period marked the most secretive period of Chevalier movements and thus little is known about Boyle's involvement beyond his membership.

In 1668 he left Oxford for London where he resided at the house of his sister, Lady Ranelagh, in Pall Mall
Pall Mall, London
Pall Mall is a street in the City of Westminster, London, and parallel to The Mall, from St. James's Street across Waterloo Place to the Haymarket; while Pall Mall East continues into Trafalgar Square. The street is a major thoroughfare in the St James's area of London, and a section of the...

.

Later years

In 1689 his health, never very strong, began to fail seriously and he gradually withdrew from his public engagements, ceasing his communications to the Royal Society, and advertising his desire to be excused from receiving guests, "unless upon occasions very extraordinary", on Tuesday and Friday forenoon, and Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. In the leisure thus gained he wished to "recruit his spirits, range his papers", and prepare some important chemical investigations which he proposed to leave "as a kind of Hermetic legacy to the studious disciples of that art", but of which he did not make known the nature. His health became still worse in 1691, and he died on 31 December that year, just a week after that of the sister with whom he had lived for more than twenty years. Robert Boyle died from paralysis. He was buried in the churchyard of St Martin in the Fields, his funeral sermon being preached by his friend Bishop Gilbert Burnet
Gilbert Burnet
Gilbert Burnet was a Scottish theologian and historian, and Bishop of Salisbury. He was fluent in Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Burnet was respected as a cleric, a preacher, and an academic, as well as a writer and historian...

. In his will, Boyle endowed a series of Lectures which came to be known as the Boyle Lectures
Boyle Lectures
The Boyle Lectures were named after Robert Boyle, a prominent English/Irish natural philosopher of the 17th century. Boyle endowed a series of lectures in his will, which were designed as a forum where prominent academics could discuss the existence of God....

.

Scientific investigator

Boyle's great merit as a scientific investigator is that he carried out the principles which Francis Bacon espoused in the Novum Organum
Novum Organum
The Novum Organum, full original title Novum Organum Scientiarum, is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon, written in Latin and published in 1620. The title translates as new instrument, i.e. new instrument of science. This is a reference to Aristotle's work Organon, which was his treatise on...

. Yet he would not avow himself a follower of Bacon, or indeed of any other teacher. On several occasions he mentions that in order to keep his judgment as unprepossessed as might be with any of the modern theories of philosophy, until he was "provided of experiments" to help him judge of them, he refrained from any study of the Atomical
Atomism
Atomism is a natural philosophy that developed in several ancient traditions. The atomists theorized that the natural world consists of two fundamental parts: indivisible atoms and empty void.According to Aristotle, atoms are indestructible and immutable and there are an infinite variety of shapes...

 and the Cartesian
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

 systems, and even of the Novum Organum itself, though he admits to "transiently consulting" them about a few particulars. Nothing was more alien to his mental temperament than the spinning of hypotheses. He regarded the acquisition of knowledge as an end in itself, and in consequence he gained a wider outlook on the aims of scientific inquiry than had been enjoyed by his predecessors for many centuries. This, however, did not mean that he paid no attention to the practical application of science nor that he despised knowledge which tended to use.

Boyle was an alchemist
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

; and believing the transmutation of metals to be a possibility, he carried out experiments in the hope of achieving it; and he was instrumental in obtaining the repeal, in 1689, of the statute of Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 against multiplying
Mines Royal Act 1689
The Mines Royal Act 1689 was an act of the Parliament of England with the long title An Act to prevent Disputes and Controversies concerning Royal Mines. The act repealed the 1404 Act Against Multipliers The Mines Royal Act 1689 was an act of the Parliament of England (1 Will. & Mar. sess. 1 c....

 gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 and silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

. With all the important work he accomplished in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 – the enunciation of Boyle's law
Boyle's law
Boyle's law is one of many gas laws and a special case of the ideal gas law. Boyle's law describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system...

, the discovery of the part taken by air in the propagation of sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

, and investigations on the expansive force of freezing water, on specific gravities
Specific gravity
Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance. Apparent specific gravity is the ratio of the weight of a volume of the substance to the weight of an equal volume of the reference substance. The reference substance is nearly always water for...

 and refractive
Refraction
Refraction is the change in direction of a wave due to a change in its speed. It is essentially a surface phenomenon . The phenomenon is mainly in governance to the law of conservation of energy. The proper explanation would be that due to change of medium, the phase velocity of the wave is changed...

 powers, on crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

s, on electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

, on colour, on hydrostatics, etc. – chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 was his peculiar and favourite study. His first book on the subject was The Sceptical Chymist, published in 1661, in which he criticized the "experiments whereby vulgar Spagyrists
Spagyric
Spagyric is a name given to the production of herbal medicines using alchemical procedures. These procedures involve fermentation, distillation and the extraction of mineral components from the ash of the plant...

 are wont to endeavour to evince their Salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

, Sulphur and Mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 to be the true Principles of Things." For him chemistry was the science of the composition of substances, not merely an adjunct to the arts of the alchemist or the physician. He endorsed the view of elements as the undecomposable constituents of material bodies; and made the distinction between mixture
Mixture
In chemistry, a mixture is a material system made up by two or more different substances which are mixed together but are not combined chemically...

s and compounds. He made considerable progress in the technique of detecting their ingredients, a process which he designated by the term "analysis". He further supposed that the elements were ultimately composed of particle
Subatomic particle
In physics or chemistry, subatomic particles are the smaller particles composing nucleons and atoms. There are two types of subatomic particles: elementary particles, which are not made of other particles, and composite particles...

s of various sorts and sizes, into which, however, they were not to be resolved in any known way. He studied the chemistry of combustion
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 and of respiration
Respiration (physiology)
'In physiology, respiration is defined as the transport of oxygen from the outside air to the cells within tissues, and the transport of carbon dioxide in the opposite direction...

, and conducted experiments in physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, where, however, he was hampered by the "tenderness of his nature" which kept him from anatomical dissection
Dissection
Dissection is usually the process of disassembling and observing something to determine its internal structure and as an aid to discerning the functions and relationships of its components....

s, especially vivisection
Vivisection
Vivisection is defined as surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure...

s, though he knew them to be "most instructing".

Theological interests

Besides being a busy natural philosopher, Boyle devoted much time to theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, showing a very decided leaning to the practical side and an indifference to controversial polemic
Polemic
A polemic is a variety of arguments or controversies made against one opinion, doctrine, or person. Other variations of argument are debate and discussion...

s. At the Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

 of the king in 1660 he was favourably received at court, and in 1665 would have received the provostship of Eton College, if he would have taken orders; but this he refused to do on the ground that his writings on religious subjects would have greater weight coming from a layman than a paid minister of the Church.

As a director of the East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 he spent large sums in promoting the spread of Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 in the East, contributing liberally to missionary
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 societies and to the expenses of translating the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 or portions of it into various languages. Boyle supported the policy that the Bible should be available in the vernacular language of the people (in contrast to the Latin-only policy of the Roman Catholic Church at the time). An Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 version of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 was published in 1602 but was rare in Boyle's adult life. In 1680—5 Boyle personally financed the printing of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, in Irish. In this respect, Boyle's attitude to the Irish language differed from the English Ascendancy
Protestant Ascendancy
The Protestant Ascendancy, usually known in Ireland simply as the Ascendancy, is a phrase used when referring to the political, economic, and social domination of Ireland by a minority of great landowners, Protestant clergy, and professionals, all members of the Established Church during the 17th...

 class in Ireland at the time, which was generally hostile to the language and largely opposed the use of Irish (not only as a language of religious worship).

Boyle was a believer in monogenism that all races no matter how diverse came from the same source, Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

. His racial origin views were described as both "disturbing" and "amusing" and were rejected by the scientific community. He studied reported stories of parents giving birth to different coloured albinos, he believed that Adam and Eve were originally white and that Caucasians could give birth to different coloured races.

In his Will, Boyle provided money for a series of lectures to defend the Christian religion
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 against those he considered "notorious infidels, namely atheists
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

, deists
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

, pagans
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

, Jews and Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s", with the provision that controversies between Christians were not to be mentioned (see Boyle Lectures
Boyle Lectures
The Boyle Lectures were named after Robert Boyle, a prominent English/Irish natural philosopher of the 17th century. Boyle endowed a series of lectures in his will, which were designed as a forum where prominent academics could discuss the existence of God....

).

Important works

The following are some of the more important of his works:
  • 1660 – New Experiments Physico-Mechanical: Touching the Spring of the Air and their Effects
  • 1661 – The Sceptical Chymist
  • 1663 – Considerations touching the Usefulness of Experimental Natural Philosophy (followed by a second part in 1671)
  • 1664 – Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours, with Observations on a Diamond that Shines in the Dark
  • 1665 – New Experiments and Observations upon Cold
  • 1666 – Hydrostatical Paradoxes
  • 1666 – Origin of Forms and Qualities according to the Corpuscular Philosophy
  • 1669 – a continuation of his work on the spring of air
  • 1670 – demonstrated that a reduction in ambient pressure could lead to bubble formation in living tissue. This description of a viper
    Viperidae
    The Viperidae are a family of venomous snakes found all over the world, except in Antarctica, Australia, Ireland, Madagascar, Hawaii, various other isolated islands, and above the Arctic Circle. All have relatively long, hinged fangs that permit deep penetration and injection of venom. Four...

     in a vacuum
    Vacuum
    In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

     was the first recorded description of decompression sickness
    Decompression sickness
    Decompression sickness describes a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body on depressurization...

    .
  • 1670 – tracts about the Cosmical Qualities of Things, the Temperature of the Subterraneal and Submarine Regions, the Bottom of the Sea, &c. with an Introduction to the History of Particular Qualities
  • 1672 – Origin and Virtues of Gems
  • 1673 – Essays of the Strange Subtilty, Great Efficacy, Determinate Nature of Effluviums
  • 1674 – two volumes of tracts on the Saltiness of the Sea, Suspicions about the Hidden Realities of the Air
    Suspicions about the Hidden Realities of the Air
    Suspicions about the Hidden Realities of the Air is a book on alchemy by 17th Century philosopher Robert Boyle. It was written in 1674 concerning ideas about the agency of the air in chemical reactions...

    , Cold, Celestial Magnets, Animadversions on Hobbes's Problemata de Vacuo
  • 1676 – Experiments and Notes about the Mechanical Origin or Production of Particular Qualities, including some notes on electricity and magnetism
  • 1678 – Observations upon an artificial Substance that Shines without any Preceding Illustration
  • 1680 – the Aerial Noctiluca
  • 1682 – New Experiments and Observations upon the Icy Noctiluca
  • 1682 – a further continuation of his work on the air
  • 1684 – Memoirs for the Natural History of the Human Blood
  • 1685 – Short Memoirs for the Natural Experimental History of Mineral Water
    Mineral water
    Mineral water is water containing minerals or other dissolved substances that alter its taste or give it therapeutic value, generally obtained from a naturally occurring mineral spring or source. Dissolved substances in the water may include various salts and sulfur compounds...

    s
  • 1686 – A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature
  • 1690 – Medicina Hydrostatica
  • 1691 – Experimentae et Observationes Physicae


Among his religious and philosophical writings were:
  • 1648/1660 – Seraphic Love, written in 1648, but not published until 1660
  • 1663 – An Essay upon the Style of the Holy Scriptures
  • 1664 – Excellence of Theology compared with Natural Philosophy
  • 1665 – Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects, which was ridiculed by Swift
    Jonathan Swift
    Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

     in A Meditation Upon a Broom-Stick
    Meditation Upon a Broomstick
    thumb|right|A Meditation Upon a Broomstick is a satire and parody written by Jonathan Swift in 1701. Edmund Curll, in an attempt to antagonize and siphon off money from Swift, published it in 1710 from a manuscript stolen from Swift , but the satire's origins lie in Swift's time...

    , and by Butler in An Occasional Reflection on Dr Charlton's Feeling a Dog's Pulse at Gresham College
  • 1675 – Some Considerations about the Reconcileableness of Reason and Religion, with a Discourse about the Possibility of the Resurrection
  • 1687 – The Martyrdom of Theodora And Didymus
  • 1690 – The Christian Virtuoso
    The Christian Virtuoso
    The Christian Virtuoso was one of the last books published by Robert Boyle., who was a champion of his Anglican faith. This book summarised his religious views including his idea of a clock-work universe created by God.-Contents:...


See also

  • Ambrose Godfrey
    Ambrose Godfrey
    Ambrose Godfrey-Hanckwitz , also known as Gottfried Hankwitz, also written Hanckewitz, or Ambrose Godfrey as he preferred to be known, was a German-born British phosphorus manufacturer and apothecary...

    , phosphorus manufacturer who started as Boyle's assistant
  • Anaerobic digestion
    Anaerobic digestion
    Anaerobic digestion is a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. It is used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to release energy....

    , history section
  • An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump
    An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump
    An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump is a 1768 oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, one of a number of candlelit scenes that Wright painted during the 1760s. The painting departed from convention of the time by depicting a scientific subject in the reverential manner formerly...

    , a painting of a demonstration of one of Boyle's experiments
  • Boyle temperature, thermodynamic quantity named after Boyle
  • Invisible College
    Invisible College
    The Invisible College has been described as a precursor group to the Royal Society of London, consisting of a number of natural philosophers around Robert Boyle...

  • Lismore Castle
    Lismore Castle
    Lismore Castle is located in the town of Lismore, in County Waterford in Ireland. It was largely re-built in the Gothic style during the mid-nineteenth century by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire.-Early history:...

  • List of people on stamps of Ireland
  • Pneumatic chemistry
    Pneumatic chemistry
    Pneumatic chemistry is a term most-closely identified with an area of scientific research of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. Important goals of this work were an understanding of the physical properties of gases and how they relate to chemical reactions and,...

  • Timeline of hydrogen technologies
    Timeline of hydrogen technologies
    Timeline of hydrogen technologies — A timeline of the history of hydrogen technology.-1600s:* 1625 - First description of hydrogen by Johann Baptista van Helmont...

  • Bloodhound
    Bloodhound
    The Bloodhound is a large breed of dog which, while originally bred to hunt deer and wild boar, was later bred specifically to track human beings. It is a scenthound, tracking by smell, as opposed to a sighthound, which tracks using vision. It is famed for its ability to discern human odors even...


Further reading

  • Fulton, John F., A Bibliography of the Honourable Robert Boyle, Fellow of the Royal Society. Second edition. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1961.
  • Hunter, Michael
    Michael Hunter (historian)
    Michael Cyril William Hunter is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London, specializing in the history of science in seventeenth-century England, particularly the work of Robert Boyle...

    , Boyle : Between God and Science, New Haven : Yale University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-300-12381-4
  • Hunter, Michael, Robert Boyle, 1627-91: Scrupulosity and Science, The Boydell Press, 2000
  • Principe, Lawrence, The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and His Alchemical Quest, Princeton University Press, 1998
  • Shapin, Stephen; Schaffer, Simon, Leviathan and the Air-Pump
    Leviathan and the Air-Pump
    Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life is a book by Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer. It examines the debate between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes over Boyle's air-pump experiments in the 1660s. On a more theoretical level, the book explores the deeper issue of...

    .


Boyle's published works online

External links

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