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December 30th marks the passing of Robert Boyle. Boyle was an Irish chemist who made a significant contribution away from the alchemical idea of Aristotle's four elements to the atomic model of elements. He argued elements consisted of 'corpuscles' (atoms) instead of the four traditional elements of earth, air, fire and water. He also proposed nature could be broken down and described as a set of simple mathematical laws.

He also worked extensively with gases, especially with low pressure or 'rarefied airs' and vacuums. He demonstrated that vacuum can exist in nature, sound cannot travel though it, and animals cannot live without air. These experiments led to Boyle's ideal gas law where a gas at constant temperature will have changes in pressure inversely proportional to changes in volume containing the gas.

Boyle was also one of the founding members of the Royal Society that formed from a group of science and mathematically inclined people who met on a weekly basis in London and Oxford. He was elected president of the Society in 1680, but turned them down because the oath of office disagreed with his religious principles.

Find out more about Boyle and what else occurred on this day in science history.


December 30, 2010 at 4:06 am
(1) Alan Crooks says:

I believe he was also the first person (1661) to propose the term ‘element’

December 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm
(2) Mark says:

Nice article as usual Anne…:)

I work with compressed gas mixtures for a living and use the ideal gas law daily as we prepare them as well as other phase behavior equations such as the SRK equation and the Peng-Robinson equation both of which calculate the phase behavior of mixtures with, I must admit, is very non-ideal at the pressures we work at.

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