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Robert Boyle

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Portrait of Robert Boyle

     Robert Boyle was born in 1627 in Northern Ireland as the 14th son of the Earl of Cork.  He was a natural philosopher who came to be known as "the father of modern chemistry" for separating chemistry from alchemy He also made many discoveries regarding the properties of elements and gasses. After beaming paralyzed in 1673, Boyle spent most of his time elaborating on his previous discoveries, until he died in 1691. Robert Boyle's ideas about chemistry and the properties of gas, though mocked and questioned by some, were widely accepted during his time, and are accepted as the truth in society today. 

     Robert Boyle developed revolutionary ideas about chemistry and the properties of elements and gasses throughout his life time. The idea that Boyle is most known for is he idea that he expresses in his book The Sceptical Chemist,  which is that chemistry and the practice of Medieval alchemy are two different sciences. Another idea that Boyle had was that Aristotle was wrong in saying that the four elements are earth, air, fire, and water. Boyle proved Aristotle wrong by demonstrating with his air pump, that air is a mixture of different gasses, not just one pure substance like Aristotle thought. Robert Boyle was very interested in air, and throughout his lifetime he discovered some amazing things about air and gas in general. First, Boyle discovered that something in the air is required for fire to burn. He learned this after he noticed that flame would not ignite in his vacume. He tested why the flame would not start, and after many tests, he determined that it was the lack of oxygen that was stopping the fire. Boyle also proved that when you compress air, the volume changes but the mass stays the same. He proved this  by using an air pump to compress air with a known mass. Boyle also developed "Boyle's law" which states that the volume of a gas at a constant temperature is inversely proportional to the pressure put on it. Boyle also had the idea that air was made of tiny "corpuscles" and empty space, which agreed with the greek theory of the atom. Another idea of Boyle was that the experimental method was the only way to truly test if something is true. Since Boyle believed in experimenting, he developed the scientific method in chemistry by developing ways to test the properties of different substances, like the open flame test. 

     Robert Boyle's ideas were generally accepted during his time. He became the most famous natural philosopher of his time, and his works caused him to be known as the "prototypical scientific virtuoso", and his discoveries were instantly put to use. For example, the tests that Boyle used to determine a substances properties, were picked up and used by gold miners, in order to tell the difference between gold and pyrite. Some understood the importance of "Boyle's law" and his discovery regarding the volume and mass of air, but some people at the Royal Society claimed that he was wasting his time, and that there was no point weighing air. However, even though most of his ideas were accepted and put to good use, most people ignored his idea that air is made out of small "corpuscles" and empty space. This was simply because with no strong microscopes available for use, no one could see the air particles, which stopped them from being able to either prove or disprove the idea.

In society today, most of Robert Boyle's ideas were proven to be correct, and they are now taught as fact in many chemistry classes. Now in chemistry, the tests that Boyle used to test the properties of different substances, are the standard way to test elements, and are used all the time. Also, today we know that elements are not just earth, air, fire, and water, just like Boyle had determined. After being tested by modern scientists, "Boyle's law" was proven to be correct, and is now taught to everyone as the truth. Finally, today we know that air is made of little "corpuscles" and empty space, just like Boyle predicted, but was not able to prove.




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