Boyle, Robert

Boyle, Robert

biographical name

(born Jan. 25, 1627, Lismore Castle, County Waterford, Ire.—died Dec. 31, 1691, London, Eng.) Irish-born English chemist and natural philosopher. The son of Richard Boyle, the “Great Earl of Cork” (1566–1643), he settled at Oxford in 1654 and, with his assistant Robert Hooke, began his pioneering experiments on the properties of gases, including those expressed in Boyle's law (see gas laws). He demonstrated the physical characteristics of air, showing that it is necessary in combustion, respiration, and sound transmission. In The Sceptical Chymist (1661) he attacked Aristotle's theory of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), espousing a corpuscular view of matter that presaged the modern theory of chemical elements. A founding member of the Royal Society of London, he achieved great renown in his lifetime. His brother Roger Boyle, earl of Orrery (1621–79), was a general under Oliver Cromwell but eventually helped secure Ireland for Charles II.

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