Irish Alchemist, Chemist and Physicist, Best-known for Boyle’s Law
Brief biography of Robert Boyle, considered one of the founders of modern chemistry, perspectives of science and his works, and his The Sceptical Chymist.
Robert Boyle was an Irish scientist whose passion was alchemy but paradoxically, set the foundation of modern chemistry. His book The Sceptical Chymist, explained significantly how he was led to challenge the Aristotelian principles, thereby promoting his atomic concepts. Boyle’s law formulates the behavior of gases in relation to their volume, pressure and temperature.
Life of Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle was born in Lismore Castle Munster, Ireland, on January 25, 1627, and died in London on December 30, 1691, aged 64. A sickly child from a wealthy Irish family, Robert Boyle’s formal education was often disrupted but he had an extremely enquiring mind.
Boyle’s Atoms and Molecules
His investigations of matter led him to challenge Aristotle’s principles that everything was made of four elements – earth, air, fire and water. Boyle promoted the atomic concepts, with the additional idea that atoms could combine to form molecules.
In 1661 he published his book entitled The Sceptical Chymist, in which he presented his idea that elements are “primitive and simple” and that they are capable of combining to form compounds. Further, that the elements within the compounds could be split back into their elements.
The critical message from the book is that matter consists of atoms and clusters of atoms. These atoms move about, and every phenomenon is the result of collisions of the particles. Boyle appealed for high quality experiments.
Before the publication of his famous publication The Sceptical Chymist, Boyle had announced the conclusion of the work he had done with his assistant Robert Hooke, who had developed an air pump. This pump helped facilitate Boyle’s experiments into the mechanical properties of the gases.
Working with Robert Hooke, he performed experiments on combustion relating to the physical property of the air. They concluded that the volume, pressure and temperature of gases were intrinsically linked.
Some results puzzled Boyle, but one thing clear with him was the relationship between temperature, pressure, and volume of a fixed amount of gas. Boyle’s law was formulated, which basically states that: for a fixed mass of gas at constant temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.
Boyle’s Complex Beliefs – Alchemy and Christianity
Boyle had an intricate mixture of views and influences. Alchemy was deeply rooted in him at the same time chemistry was a passion. He was also a strong believer in Christianity and believed in the need to teach people about it. He was rich enough not to get a job but it has been suggested in his biographies that he accepted the post of director of the East India Company so that he could propagate Christianity to the East.