Birthday: January 25, 1627
Nationality: British, Irish
Died At Age: 64
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Robert William Boyle
Born Country: Ireland
Born in: Ireland
Famous as: Founder of Modern Chemistry, Boyle's Law
father: Richard Boyle
mother: Catherine Fenton
siblings: Lady Ranelagh
Died on: December 30, 1691
place of death: London
Diseases & Disabilities: Quadriplegia
discoveries/inventions: Boyle's Law, The Prolongation Of Life, Art Of Flying, Perpetual Light, A Ship To Sail With All Winds, And A Ship Not To Be Sunk, Practicable And Certain Way Of Finding Longitudes, Potent Drugs To Alter Or Exalt Imagination, Waking, Memory And Other Functions And Appease Pain
education: University College Oxford Eton College
awards: Fellow of the Royal Society
Who was Robert Boyle?
Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist and physicist. As one of the early pioneers of modern experimental scientific method, Boyle made huge contribution to a number of subjects, including chemistry, physics, medicine, hydrostatics, natural history and earth sciences. He was raised in Ireland by the Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle, who sent him to Eton College, England, to pursue higher studies. Boyle travelled around Europe to gain more exposure in education and settled in Dorset to realize his love for science there. He got so much interested in his chemical experiments that when he moved back to Ireland and found out that the country was not ready for a scientific revolution yet, he moved to Oxford. It was in Oxford that he produced the best works of his life, in the company of other physicists, chemists and inventors like himself. He was made the member of council for ‘The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’. His book ‘The Sceptical Chymist’ is considered as a key book in chemistry and he is known for contributing in a big way in the field of science with his ‘Boyle’s Law’.
Childhood & Early Life
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.
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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 1652, 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 1659, 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.
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.
Personal Life & Legacy
From 1689-1691 Boyle’s health started deteriorating and it became impossible for him to see people anymore and he increasingly became a recluse. In 1691, he died of paralysis, just a week after his sister’s death, with whom he lived for 20 years.
His scientist friends, like John Wallis, were always interested in setting him up for a marriage but he was too busy with his scientific researches and writings that he never found any time or inclination for it.
Boyle, towards the end of his life, saw his friends, students and other people less and less for his health did not allow him to socialize very much. He used to see people on Tuesday and Friday forenoon, and Wednesday and Saturday afternoon.
He was buried in the churchyard of St Martin-in-the-Fields and in his will Boyle gifted a series of lectures which came to be known as the ‘Boyle Lectures’. These lectures defended the Christian religion against infidels, atheists, deists, pagans, Jews and Muslims.