of the law which describes the relationship
between the volume of a gas and its pressure
The 14th child of the Earl of
Cork, was born in the family castle in Lismore,
Ireland, in 1627. As a child, he traveled widely
in Europe and spent several months in Italy,
where he was profoundly influenced by the
writings of Galileo.
In the 1640's, Boyle helped
found an association of British scholars
dedicated to furthering experimental science.
Originally named The Invisible College, it
received a Royal Charter in 1663 and was renamed
the Royal Society.
About 1659, Boyle became interested in
the investigations then being carried out on the
nature of vacuum. He designed and constructed a
new kind of air pump, which he used to create a
near vacuum so that he could study the phenomenon
for himself. An apparatus could be placed in the
globe-like receiver at the top, which had a
stopper that could be made airtight by means of
cement. When the globe was evacuated, flames were
extinguished and any animal placed inside
Using his apparatus, Boyle was
able to prove Galileo's assertion that, in the
absence of air resistance, bodies of different
weights fall at the same rate. He also discovered
that sound is dependent on air for its
transmission, and that even the loudest noise is
barely transmitted in a near vacuum.
In another experiment, Boyle
demonstrated the greatest height to which water
could be raised by pumping. By standing on a roof
30 feet above a reservoir of water and sucking up
the water with a pump, Boyle showed that because
of atmospheric pressure there was a maximum
height beyond which water could not be drawn up.
Boyle's experiments culminated
in 1662 in the discovery of what is now known as
Boyle's Law, which describes a simple but
important inverse relationship between the volume
of a gas and its pressure. Boyle found that if a
certain quantity of gas was kept at constant
temperature and the pressure was doubled, its
volume was halved. If the pressure was increased
three-fold, the volume was reduced to a third.
Boyle's Law is still used today to calculate the
way in which the pressure and volume of gases
Taking his discovery even
further, Boyle concluded that since air could be
compressed, it must be made up of tiny particles.
Rejecting the belief that all matter consisted of
combinations of the four elements -- earth, air,
fire, and water -- he proposed instead that
matter consisted of "primary particles"
that could collect together to form
"corpuscles." This idea of
"primary particles" forming
"corpuscles" anticpated the modern
chemist's view of atoms forming bonds with each
other to produce molecules.
In 1680, Boyle was offered the
presidency of the Royal Society but declined on
obscure religious grounds. On his death, which
came in 1691, he left money for a series of
scholarly lectures dedicated to "proving the
Christian Religion against notorious
Infidels." These Boyle Lectures still
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