Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Robert Boyle: Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor

Robert Boyle (25 January, 1627 – 31 December, 1691), ‘The Father of Chemistry’, was the most influential scientist ever born in Ireland.

Robert Boyle was born in Lismore, Co. Waterford, the youngest son of Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork, and his second wife Katherine Fenton. Richard accumulated a great fortune in Ireland and enjoyed a high social standing. Robert displayed a quiet scholarly disposition and was his father’s favorite son.

After early education at home, Robert together with his brother were sent for a while to Eton College in England for four years. Then at the age of 11 he was sent, with a French Protestant tutor, on a grand tour of Europe which lasted for 6 years.

After spending some time on the Continent, during which he met Galileo in Florence in 1641–1642, he returned to England and lived in London. 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.

His research intensified after 1654, when he took lodgings in Oxford, UK. There, he met regularly with another group of experimentalists convened by the mathematician John Wilkins. Its members included the multi-talented Christopher Wren and Boyle’s gifted assistant, Robert Hooke. Robert Hooke helped him in his experiments. Boyle referred to the group as the “invisible college.” This later became the Royal Society in 1662.

Boyle demonstrated the necessity of air for combustion, for animal breathing, and for the transmission of sound.

Using an improved air pump built for him by Hooke, Boyle began to study the physics of gases. The results appeared in 1660 as New Experiments Physico-mechanical Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects, in which he described the first controlled experiments of the effects of reducing the pressure of the air. Soon afterwards, he stated for the first time the inverse relationship between gas pressure and volume we now call ‘Boyle’s law’.
Robert Boyle: Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor


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