Robert Boyle

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Robert Boyle FRS (25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691) was a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He is best known for Boyle's law.[1] Although his research clearly has its roots in the alchemical tradition, he is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.


Early years

Boyle was born in Lismore Castle, in County Waterford, Ireland, the seventh son and fourteenth child of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. Richard Boyle had arrived in Ireland in 1588, obtained an appointment as a deputy escheator, and had amassed enormous landholdings by the time Robert was born.

As a child, Robert was fostered to a local family,[2] as were his elder brothers. Consequently, the eldest of the Boyle children had sufficient Irish at four years of age to act as a translator for his father.[3] Robert received private tutoring in Latin, Greek and French and when he was eight years old, following the death of his mother, he was sent to Eton College in England. His father's friend, Sir Henry Wotton, was then the provost of the college.

During this time, his father hired a private tutor, Robert Carew, who had knowledge of Irish, to act as private tutor to his sons in Eton. However, "only Mr. Robert sometimes desires it and is a little entered in it", but despite the "many reasons" given by Mr. Carew to turn their attentions to it, "they practice the French and Latin but they affect not the Irish".[3] After spending over three years at Eton, Robert traveled abroad with a French tutor. They visited Italy in 1641 and remained in Florence during the winter of that year studying the "paradoxes of the great star-gazer" Galileo Galilei, who was elderly but still living in 1641.

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