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Robert Boyle

  • Date Submitted: 06/21/2011 03:55 AM
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Robert Boyle (1627-1691), English natural philosopher and one of the founders of modern chemistry. Boyle is best remembered for Boyle’s law, a physical law that explains how the pressure and volume of a gas are related. He was instrumental in the founding of the Royal Society, a British organization dedicated to the advancement of the sciences. Boyle was also a pioneer in the use of experiments and the scientific method to test his theories.


Boyle was born in Lismore Castle in Lismore, Ireland. His father was Richard Boyle, who was the first earl of Cork. Robert learned to speak French and Latin as a child and went to Eton College in England at the early age of eight.

In 1641 Boyle began a tour of Europe, returning to England in 1644. He settled there, because Ireland was in turmoil over colonization efforts by English protestants. Boyle had inherited parts of several estates upon his father’s death in 1643, and income from these allowed him to live independently. He joined a group known as the Invisible College, whose aim was to cultivate ideas called the “new philosophy.” The new philosophy included new methods of experimental science, in which scientists sought to prove or disprove hypotheses through careful experiments. Boyle moved to Oxford, which was one of the meeting places of the Invisible College, in 1654. King Charles II granted a charter in 1663 that allowed the Invisible College to become the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, and Boyle was a member of its first council. (He was elected president of the Royal Society in 1680, but declined the office.) He moved to London in 1668 and lived with his sister until his death in 1691.


Boyle carried out his most active research while he lived in Oxford. Much of his research dealt with the behavior of gases, including the earth’s atmosphere. By careful experiments, he established Boyle’s law. Boyle’s law states that...


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