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Robert Boyle Biography (1627 - 1691)

By Todd & Anne Helmenstine

Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

Johann Kerseboom (c. 1689) This is a graph of Boyle's original data, leading to the formulation of Boyle's Law.

This is a graph of Boyle's original data, leading to the formulation of Boyle's Law.

Marc Lagrange, Wikipedia Commons

Born:

January 25, 1627 in Munster, Ireland. Seventh son and fourteenth child of fifteen of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork.

Died:

December 30, 1691 at 64 years old.

Claim to Fame:

Early proponent of the elemental nature of matter and the nature of vacuum. Known best for Boyle's Law.

Notable Awards and Publications:

Founding Fellow of the Royal Society of London
Author: New Experiments Physio-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (Made, for the Most Part, in a New Pneumatical Engine)[ (1660) Author: The Sceptical Chymist (1661)

Boyle's Law:

The ideal gas law which Boyle is known for actually appears in an appendix written in 1662 to his New Experiments Physio-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (Made, for the Most Part, in a New Pneumatical Engine)[ (1660). Basically, the law states for a gas of constant temperature, changes in pressure are inversely proportional to changes in volume.

Vacuum:

Boyle conducted many experiments on the nature of "rarefied" or low pressure air. He showed that sound does not travel through a vacuum, flames require air and animals need air to live. In the appendix which contains Boyle's Law, he also defends the idea that a vacuum can exist where popular belief at the time was otherwise.

The Sceptical Chymist or Chymico-Physical Doubts and Paradoxes:

In 1661, The Sceptical Chymist was published and is considered Boyle's crowning achievement. He argues against Aristotle's view of the four elements of earth, air, fire and water and in favor of matter consisting of corpuscles (atoms) which were in turn built up of configurations of primary particles. Another point was that these primary particles move freely in liquids, but less so in solids. He also put forth the idea that the world could be described as a system of simple mathematical laws.

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