Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

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“From a knowledge of His work, we shall know Him”

One of the founders of the Royal Society in 1660, Robert Boyle was sometimes called ‘the son of the Earl of Cork and the father of chemistry.’ Although he spend most of his life in Britain, Robert was born at Lismore Castle in Co. Waterford, the youngest of fourteen children.

Robert was born into a world in which the theories of Aristotle and the beliefs of alchemy were paramount. He made many great contributions in both physics and chemistry, and we particularly remember him when we learn Boyle’s Law, which state that at constant temperature, the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to the pressure applied to it. (V x p = constant)

From 1645 to 1655 Robert lived partly in Dorset, where he began his experimental work and wrote moral essays, some of which appeared in 1655 in Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects. One of his essays is reputed to have inspired the writing of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. He spent some time in Ireland in connection with his estates; because laboratory apparatus was unobtainable there, he engaged in anatomical dissection.

When he died, experimental science was firmly established, and much of the credit is due to him. Robert was also a humble witnessing Christian and a diligent student of the God’s Word. He wrote as much on theology as on natural philosophy! Robert also paid for Bible translations in both Irish and Welsh. In 1690 he developed his theological views in The Christian Virtuoso, which he wrote to show that the study of nature was a central religious duty. In his will he founded the “Boyle lectures” for proving the Christian religion.