ANGLO-IRISH NATURAL PHILOSOPHER,
CHEMIST, PHYSICIST, INVENTOR, AND GENTLEMAN SCIENTIST
Autograph Document Signed, “Ro Boyle,” one page, oblong octavo, June 26, 1675. Also signed by E Anglesey (Arthur Annesley, 1st Earl of Anglesey).
“We doe hereby acknowledge to have recd. of the Countess of Orrery our Severall propo[rt]ions of the ballance of this acco[un]t. Witnes our hands.”
An important seventeenth scientist, Robert Boyle set the tone and inspired the methods of thought that were widely accepted by the next two generations of British who made staggering discoveries, especially in the areas of astronomy and chemistry. In his lifetime, Boyle was honored not only as an original chemist and physicist, a great exponent of English experimental philosophy, and a pillar of the Royal Society (founded in his lifetime and so important to the next generation of scientists), but also as a prolific writer on natural theology, the point where religion and science meet. At his death he left a sum of money to fund the Boyle lectures, intended to confute atheism with arguments drawn from the scientific advances of the day.
While he is known for his pioneering experiments on the properties of gases, including those expressed in Boyle’s law (which states that the pressure and volume of gas at a constant temperature have an inversely proportional relationship), Boyle’s greatest influence was on chemistry. He was the first to develop modern concepts of element and compound; to distinguish between acids, bases, and neutral substances; and to conduct and publish experiments along the lines now called the scientific method.
Robert Boyle’s first published book, the one that established his fame, was on pneumatics, New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (in 1660). At the time of the present document, his publications include Mechanical Origin of Qualities and Reason and Religion (in 1675) and two ambitious treatises on alchemical subjects (Incalescence of Quicksilver with Gold and A Historical Account of a Degradation of Gold) written between 1675 and 1677.
Born to considerable affluence, Robert Boyle was related by blood or marriage to all the great Anglo-Irish families of his day and, as a young man, got caught up in the Anglo-Irish wars, as well as the Civil War in England. While his father was a Royalist, he and his siblings were Parliamentarians. After the Restoration, he remained active in Irish affairs. His lodgings (at his sister’s) were always open to visitors and his laboratory became a center for research.
The Countess of Orrery was his sister-in-law, Margaret Boyle, a one-time supporter of Cromwell. Arthur Annesley was originally a supporter of the Parliamentary cause, then a royalist sympathizer and ultimately one of the key figures behind the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 (for which he was granted the titles, Earl of Anglesey and Baron Annesley).
Documents from Robert Boyle are very rare.
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