Biographies

Robert Boyle : Founder of Modern Chemistry

Robert Boyle put chemistry on a firm scientific footing, transforming it from a field bogged down in alchemy and mysticism into one based on measurement. He defined elements, compounds and mixtures and he coined the new term ‘chemical analysis,’ a field in which he made several powerful contributions.

Quick facts

FULL NAME :  Robert William Boyle

FAMOUS AS : Founder of Modern Chemistry, Boyle’s Law

NATIONALITY : Irish

BORN ON : 25 January 1627

BIRTHDAY : 25th January

DIED AT AGE :64

SUN SIGN : Aquarius

PLACE OF BIRTH : Ireland

DIED ON :  30 December 1691 AD

PLACE OF DEATH : London


Major Works

In 1662, Boyle gave the empirical relation concerning the compression and expansion of gas at constant temperature, it was known as the ‘Boyle’s law’ later. It was the result of his scientific study of air along with Robert Hooke.

Early Life and Education

  • Robert Boyle was born on January 25, 1627 in Ireland to Richard Boyle and Catherine Fenton. His father was the first Earl of Cork and left England when he was young to settle down in Ireland and his mother was a daughter of the famous writer Geoffrey Fenton.
  • He went to Eton College to study and travelled around Europe for his education. When he was done with his travels in 1644, he settled in Dorset and built a laboratory there for he was very interested in science by now.

Carrier

  • After completing his educational expeditions in Europe, Boyle settled down in Dorset at his father’s property and started to work with a number of natural philosophers from Royal Society of London called ‘Invisible College’.
  • In 1952, Boyle had to move back to Ireland and he tried to continue his scientific endeavors there but soon got frustrated as Ireland was not an ideal country to experiment with chemistry back then because the country was scientifically backward.
  • After struggling with Ireland’s lack of proper scientific temperament, Boyle shifted to Oxford in 1654 and rented rooms in the University College and formed the ‘Experimental Philosophy Club’ with natural philosophers and physicians.
  • In 1959, Boyle, along with Robert Hooke, constructed an air pump, which helped Boyle in studying air pressure and vacuum, and a year later he published ‘New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air and Its Effects’.
  • Boyle published his most influential writing ‘The Sceptical Chymist ‘in 1661, which beat the then-current Aristotelian and especially Paracelsian notions about the composition of matter and methods of chemical analysis.
  • Boyle and Hooke worked together on studying characteristics of air, including its role in combustion, respiration, and the transmission of sound. In 1662, they published their finding which was later known as “Boyle’s law.”
  • In 1663 the’ Invisible College’ was transformed into ‘The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’ and Boyle was named as a member of the council by the charter of incorporation granted by Charles II of England.
  • Boyle left Oxford and went to live with his sister Lady Ranelagh in London in 1668. There he continued his writings on natural philosophy and enjoyed the company of his physicist neighbors like Isaac Barrow and Thomas Sydenham.
  • In 1670, he suffered from a stroke that left him paralyzed but his health continued to get better slowly after that. He continued to work on his scientific researches even though he was physically restricted in many ways.
  • Boyle declined the offer to serve as President of the Royal Society in 1680 owing to his religious beliefs. He produced some of his scientific and religious writings during this time, like, ‘Medicina Hydrostatica’, The Christian Virtuoso’, etc.

 Death

Robert Boyle died of a stroke – or paralysis as it was then known – aged 64, on December 31, 1691, a week after the death of his sister Katherine. He was buried in a churchyard in Westminster, London. The churchyard was redeveloped in 1721 and Boyle’s remains were lost.


Awards & Achievements

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  • As a founder of the Royal Society, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1663.
  • Boyle’s law is named in his honour.
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry issues a Robert Boyle Prize for Analytical Science, named in his honour.
  • The Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence in Ireland, inaugurated in 1899, is awarded jointly by the Royal Dublin Society and the The Irish Times.
  • Launched in 2012, The Robert Boyle Summer School organized by the Waterford Institute of Technology with support from Lismore Castle, is held annually to honor the heritage of Robert Boyle.

Quotes and Sayings by Robert Boyle

He that condescended so far, and stooped so low, to invite and bring us to heaven, will not refuse us a gracious reception there.
Let there be an admiration of those divine attributes and prerogatives for whose manifesting he was pleased to construct this vast fabric.
  I think myself obliged, whatever my private apprehensions may be of the success, to do my duty, and leave events to their disposer.

Some Unknown Facts About Robert Boyle

  • Robert Boyle was born in Lismore, Ireland, in County Waterford. He was the fourteenth child of Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork.
  • The Boyle’s were very wealthy and the sons were sent to live with foster families to learn Irish.
  • Robert was tutored in Latin, Greek and French and was sent to Eton College when he was eight years old.
  • In 1641 he travelled to Florence with his French tutor and spent the winter studying with Galileo Galilei.
  • In 1644 Boyle returned to his estate in England and devoted the rest of his life to scientific study.
  • He was a member of the “Invisible College” which was a group of men who met frequently to discuss science and philosophy.
  • The members were dedicated to the New Philosophy which espoused observation and experimentation to further scientific understanding.
  • In 1659 he and his assistant, Robert Hooke, constructed a new, improved air pump.
  • Boyle continued his experiments with air and in 1660 published New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects.
  • Boyle discovered that air has weight and exerts pressure which led him to believe that it is made up of minute particles.
  • In volume two of this work he published Boyle’s Law, stating that the volume of a gas varies inversely to the pressure of the gas.
  • He was an early advocate of corpuscularism, which rejected the Aristotelian view that earth, air, fire, and water were the defining physical elements and defined physical change in terms of particle motion.
  • In 1661 he wrote the Sceptical Chymist in which he argued for the scientific method of inquiry and the development of proof.
  • He called for a systematic organization of knowledge and the volume of scientific papers he left is impressive.
  • In 1668 he moved from Oxford to London and lived with his elder sister, Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelagh.
  • Boyle and his sister had a strong, intellectual partnership and shared scientific ideas and edited each other’s manuscripts.
  • In 1689 he became seriously ill and withdrew from public life.

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