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Robert Boyle was one of the founders of modern chemistry and a leading intellectual figure in the 17th century.  He was born in 1627 to Richard Boyle, who was the 1st Earl of Cork, and Catherine Fenton, who was the daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton – former Secretary of State for Ireland.  Robert was highly educated, receiving private tutoring as a child in Latin, Greek and French and after the death of his mother at eight years old, was sent to Eton College where his father’s friend, Sir Henry Wotton, was the provost of the college.

 

After 3 years at Eton, Robert then travelled and studied in Europe, returning in 1644 with a keen interest in chemistry.  His father had died the previous year, leaving Robert the manor of Stalbridge in Dorset and substantial estates in County Limerick.  He built a  laboratory in Dorset and, a couple of years later, moved to Oxford.  Here he engaged Robert Hooke as an assistant and they created the vacuum chamber or air-pump, which is the most  famous piece of experimental equipment associated with him. 

 

Robert is most famous for Boyle’s Law, which states that if the volume of a gas is decreased, the pressure increases proportionally.  Realizing that his results could be explained if all gases were made of tiny particles, he tried to conduct a universal “corpuscular theory” of chemistry and defined the idea of an “element”.  He started to publish his work in 1659 on various topics:  philosophy, medicine and religion.  Robert, along with 11 others, formed the Royal Society in London in 1660 which met to discuss scientific topics and perform experiments. 

 

In 1668, Robert moved to London to live with his sister.  A year later his health, which had never been very good, began to seriously fail and he withdrew from all public engagements.  Brother and sister shared medical remedies, promoted one another’s scientific ideas and edited each other’s manuscripts.  They died just a week apart in December 1691.

 

Sources:  bbc.co.uk/Wikipedia (photos: Wikipedia)

Additional Information
Date of Birth 25th Jan 1627  
Date of Death 31st Dec 1691  
Associated Building (s) Robert Boyle Sculpture  
Father (First Name/s and Surname) Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork  
Mother (First Name/s and Maiden) Catherine Fenton  
Townland born Lismore, Co. Waterford  
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