Saturday, 19 October 2013

Robert Boyle


Robert Boyle (1627-1691), English natural philosopher and one of the founders of modern chemistry. Boyle is best remembered for Boyle’s law, a physical law that explains how the pressure and volume of a gas are related. He was instrumental in the founding of the Royal Society, a British organization dedicated to the advancement of the sciences. Boyle was also a pioneer in the use of experiments and the scientific method to test his theories.

Boyle was born in Lismore Castle in Lismore, Ireland. His father was Richard Boyle, who was the first earl of Cork. Robert learned to speak French and Latin as a child and went to Eton College in England at the early age of eight.
In 1641 Boyle began a tour of Europe, returning to England in 1644. He settled there, because Ireland was in turmoil over colonization efforts by English protestants. Boyle had inherited parts of several estates upon his father’s death in 1643, and income from these allowed him to live independently. He joined a group known as the Invisible College, whose aim was to cultivate ideas called the “new philosophy.” The new philosophy included new methods of experimental science, in which scientists sought to prove or disprove hypotheses through careful experiments. Boyle moved to Oxford, which was one of the meeting places of the Invisible College, in 1654. King Charles II granted a charter in 1663 that allowed the Invisible College to become the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, and Boyle was a member of its first council. (He was elected president of the Royal Society in 1680, but declined the office.) He moved to London in 1668 and lived with his sister until his death in 1691.



Gas Laws of Boyle and Charles
With their discovery of the gas laws that bear their names, Robert Boyle and Jacques Alexandre Charles made important contributions to chemistry. In 1661 English scientist Robert Boyle found that the volume of a gas varies inversely with its pressure, if the temperature is held constant. About a hundred years later, a French physicist, Jacques Alexandre Charles, observed that the volume of a gas varies in proportion to its temperature, if the pressure is held constant.
Encarta Encyclopedia
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Boyle carried out his most active research while he lived in Oxford. Much of his research dealt with the behavior of gases, including the earth’s atmosphere. By careful experiments, he established Boyle’s law. Boyle’s law states that the volume of a given amount of gas varies inversely with its pressure, if temperature is constant. This means that at a constant temperature, the pressure of a gas will increase as the volume of the gas is decreased, and vice versa. Boyle determined the density of air in the earth’s atmosphere and pointed out that the weight of objects varies with changes in atmospheric pressure. He compared the lower layers of the earth’s atmosphere to a number of sponges or small springs that the weight of the layers above compresses. In 1660 Boyle published these findings in a book entitled The Spring of Air.

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