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Robert Boyle

1627 - 1691


Robert Boyle was an early champion of the scientific method, using rigorous scientific experiment to derive natural laws, and brushing aside religious criticism based on dogma with mathematics and logic.

  • Nationality
  • Irish

  • Subject
  • Chemistry

  • Fields
  • Physics, gas law

  • Posts
  • Boyle was a prominent member of the 'Invisible College', the fore-runner of the Royal Society.

    After its founding in 1663, Boyle became a member of The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.

  • Publications
  • The Sceptical Chymist, 1661. Sub-title: Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes. This book established Boyle as the leading pioneer of modern chemistry.

    New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air, and its Effects, 1660. Debate over this work led to the publication of what was to become known as Boyle's Law, which relates the inverse relationship between pressure and volume.

    Wish List. As a leading figure in the scientific community, Boyle created a list of 24 inventions which he thought science would bring into being. 22 of these have since been realised, including 'the prolongation of life', 'art of flying', 'perpetual light', 'light and hard armour', 'wind-independent and unsinkable ships', 'potent drugs to alter functions', and 'a practical and certain way of finding longitudes'.

  • Laws
  • Boyle's Law. PV = nRT, where P is the gas pressure, V is the volume, n is the number of moles, R is the gas constant, and T the temperature.

  • Theories
  • Boyle proposed that matter was composed of moving atoms, and natural phenomena was due to particle collisions. [today: Kinetic theory of gases]

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Boyle developed Otto von Guericke's air pump, in 1657, with Robert Boyle. The result was the 'machina Boyleana', a type of pneumatical engine, which he used to experiment on air properties.

Robert Boyle was a contemporary and great influence on the great scientists of the English Enlightenment: Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton.

Sceptical Chymist
Robert Boyle's 1661 The Sceptical Chymist of Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes

With Robert Hooke, he developed apparatus for experimenting with air pressure, and derived the fundamental principles of the gas laws.

His 1661 book The Sceptical Chymist or Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes, is one of the most famous books on chemistry ever, and helped establish the modern scientific method as the basis for scientific procedure, a system adopted by Isaac Newton to great effect.

Read about history on
Boyles' air pressure apparatus, machina Boyleana

Robert Boyle was aided in his work by his sister, Katherine Jones, whose scientific contributions have largely been transgressed by the historical record.

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