Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, scientist and theological writer. As one of the early pioneers of modern experimental scientific method, Boyle’s contributions ranged over a number of subjects, including chemistry, physics, medicine, hydrostatics, natural history and earth sciences.
Early Life and Education:
Born in Ireland on 25 January, 1627 to a wealthy and influential family, Robert Boyle’s father, Richard Boyle, was Lord Treasurer of the Kingdom of Ireland. Boyle received the best education from various prestigious schools, including Eton, where he studied philosophy, religion, mathematics and the latest trends in physics and chemistry.
Contributions and Achievements:
After studying a few years under the local parson, Boyle gained a strong interest in science. He gathered many prominent scientists from various fields of science who had weekly meetings in Oxford and London. The group later became the Royal Society of London. Boyle was elected its president, but he declined the position as the required oath breached his strict religious beliefs.
Boyle was the earliest-known scientist to really publish his work. He carefully collected his experiments, along with his failures and findings. His 1660 scientific paper, “The Spring and Weight of Air”, mentioned the usage of an improved vacuum pump of a custom design. Boyle siginificantly modified the clumsy and inefficient pump of Von Guericke, which needed two men to operate, and with great effort. In Boyle’s new design, vacuum could be sustained with only one operator in a very efficient manner.
Boyle carried out various experiments which helped him in the discovery of the relationship between pressure and volume of gases. This resulted in the “Boyle-Mariotte Law” which implies that if the temperature is constant, the volume of gas is inversely proportional to the pressure. The phrase “chemical analysis” was also coined by him.
In that era, it was widely believed that elements like salt and water could be broken down no further. Boyle largely opposed the theories of basic elements.
Later Life and Death:
Boyle was a very pious person and died, having never married, from paralysis in London, on 30 December, 1691. He was 64 years old.