Robert Boyle, FRS, (25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691) was a 17th-century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He has been variously described as Irish, English and Anglo-Irish, his father having come to Ireland from England during the time of the Plantations.
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, 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. Among his works, TheSkeptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.
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 hadamassed 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 of Robert Weston, who was born in Lismore in 1541.
As a child, Boyle was fostered to a local family, as were his elder brothers. Consequently, the eldest of the Boyle children had sufficient Irish at fouryears of age to act as a translator for his father. 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 asprivate 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 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 travelled abroad with a French tutor. They visited Italy in 1641 and remainedin 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.
Boyle returned to England from Continental Europe 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 in Dorset, England and substantial estates in CountyLimerick in Ireland that he had acquired. From that time, Robert devoted his life to scientific research and soon took a prominent place in the band of enquirers, known as the "Invisible College", who devoted themselves to the cultivation of the "new philosophy". They met frequently in London, often at Gresham College, and some of the members also had meetings at Oxford.
Having made several visits tohis 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 pursuehis work more successfully. An inscription can be found on the wall of University College, Oxford the High Street at Oxford (now the location of the Shelley Memorial), 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's air-pump, he set himself with the...
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