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Robert Boyle

Early Years
Boyle was born in Lismore Castle, in County Waterford, Ireland, the seventh son and fourteenth child of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork and Catherine Fenton. Richard Boyle arrived in Dublin from England in 1588 during the Tudor plantations of Ireland 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, who was born in Dublin in 1539, and Alice Weston, the daughter ofRobert Weston, who was born in Lismore in 1541.[5] Robert displayed a quiet scholarly disposition and was his fathers favourite son.

As a child, Boyle was fostered to a local family,[6] as were his elder brothers. Consequently, the eldest of the Boyle children had sufficient Irish at four years of age to act as a translator for his father.[7] Boyle 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 in England. His father's friend, Sir Henry Wotton, was then the provost 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 "any reasons" given by Carew to turn their attentions to it, "they practice the French and Latin but they affect not the Irish".[7]After spending over three years at Eton, Robert travelled abroad with a French tutor. They visited Italy in 1641 and remained in Florence during the

winter of that year studying the "paradoxes of the great star-gazer" Galileo Galilei, who was elderly but still living in 1641.

Contributions and Achievements

Boyle returned to Dorset in England in 1644 and embarked on a writing career, largely of pious and moralistic material in the beginning. In 1649 he set up a scientific laboratory, and he began to write accounts of his scientific work, promulgating the use of experiment and the scientific method. In 1655 Boyle moved to Oxford where he joined a group of natural philosophers that foreshadowed the Royal Society, founded in 1660. Robert Hooke (1635-1703) entered Boyles employ at this time and helped him in his experiments. They built the air-pump used to create vacuums and with which Boyle carried out many trials to elucidate the nature and importance of air. Boyle demonstrated the necessity of air for combustion, for animal breathing, and for the transmission of sound. Prior to moving from Oxford to London in 1688, he published much influential work, including New Experiments Physio-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (1660) and The Sceptical Chymist (1661). In The Spring of The Modern chemistry developed out of medieval alchemy. Alchemy was a pseudoscientific practice that sought a method (by varying the proportions of the 3 controlling elements) of changing base metals into gold, an elixir to prolong life indefinitely, a panacea to cure all ills, and a solvent capable of dissolving anything. Alchemy was still practiced in Boyles time and he himself studied the art. He was quite prepared to believe that cosmical qualities transcended pure mechanical laws in the universe. However, he sharply differentiated his scientific experimentation and theorising from his alchemical work. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) laid down guidelines for the pursuit of inductive science by controlled experiment but Boyle, the experimenter par excellence [italics], worked out this idea in full and must be credited for properly introducing the modern experimental method into science and for teasing chemistry away from its alchemical origins. Boyle was very religious. His major preoccupation was the relationship between Gods power, the created realm and mans perception of it, and he was very hostile to views of nature that he saw as detracting from an appreciation of Gods power in his creation. His principal target in this respect was the Aristotelian worldview so prevalent in his day. Boyle used his experiments to demonstrate that mechanical explanations of the world are better than the traditional qualitative explanations associated with the ideas of Aristotle. In his book The Sceptical Chymist, Boyle attacked Aristotles and Paracelsuss theories. He proposed that elements are basically composed of corpuscles of various sorts and sizes capable of organising themselves into groups and that each group constitutes a chemical substance. He clearly distinguished between mixtures and compounds and showed that a compound can have very different properties from those of its constituents. This prefigured the atomic theory of matter. Boyle declared that the proper object of chemistry was analysis of composition and, indeed, he coined the term analysis itself. He was also the first chemist to collect a sample of gas. Robert Boyle was friendly with Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Newton worked intensively on alchemical investigations, but he kept this work secret. Newton had something of a paranoid personality and was secretive about most of his activities. He tried unsuccessfully to infect Boyle with this paranoia. Boyle, the wealthy aristocrat, had an easy self confidence lacking in the self-made Newton. In his will Boyle endowed a series of Boyle Lectures, which still continue, for proving the Christian Religion against notorious Infidels. He rarely dedicated any of his many books to others. Interestingly,

his last work, Free Discourse Against Swearing, published posthumously, was dedicated to his brother, the Second Earl of Cork. Boyle's great merit as a scientific investigator is that he carried out the principles which Francis Bacon espoused in the Novum Organum. 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 and the Cartesian 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;[14] 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 against multiplying gold and silver.[15]With all the important work he accomplished in physics the enunciation of Boyle's law, the discovery of the part taken by air in the propagation of sound, and investigations on the expansive force of freezing water, on specific gravities and refractive powers, on crystals, on electricity, on colour, on hydrostatics, etc. chemistry was his peculiar and favourite study. His first book on the subject was The Sceptical Chymist, published in 1661, in which he criticised the "experiments whereby vulgar Spagyrists are wont to endeavour to evince their Salt, Sulphur and Mercury 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 mixtures 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 particles of various sorts and sizes, into which, however, they were not to be resolved in any known way. He studied the chemistry of combustion and of respiration, and conducted experiments in physiology, where, however, he was hampered by the "tenderness of his nature" which kept him from anatomical dissections, especially vivisections, though he knew them to be "most instructing".

Robert Boyle was a 17th-century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, andinventor. Born in Lismore County Waterford, Ireland, he was also noted for his writings in theology. Although his research clearly has its roots in the alchemical tradition, Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. He is best known for Boyle's law,[2] which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system.[3][4] Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry. Robert was considered The Father of Chemistry, was the most influential scientist ever born in Ireland. His influence on chemistry has been likened to that of Copernicus (1473-1543) on cosmology, who proposed that the sun and not the earth lies at the centre of the solar system. Apart from chemistry Boyle made many other contributions to science.

Later life
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,[13] just a week after the death of the sister with whom he had lived for more than twenty years. Boyle died from paralysis. He was buried in the churchyard of St Martin-in-the-Fields, his funeral sermon being preached by his friend BishopGilbert Burnet. In his will, Boyle endowed a series of Lectures which came to be known as the Boyle Lectures.

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