ROBERT BOYLE ‘THE FATHER OF CHEMISTRY’ Robert Boyle , ‘The Father of Chemistry’, was the most influential scientist ever born inIreland.Boyle was born on 25th January 1627 in Lismore Castle , in County Waterford, Ireland, the seventhson and fourteenth child of Richard Boyle and Catherine Fenton. After early education at home, Robert was sent to Eton College in England,when he was eightyears old. Then at the age of 11 he was sent on a grand tour of Europe, with a French tutor,which lasted for6 years. During this they visited Italy in 1641 and stayed in Florence during the winter of that yearstudying the "paradoxes of the great star-gazer" Galileo Galilei.
Boyle returned to Dorset in England in 1644 from Europe with a keen interest for scientificresearch. From that time, Robert devoted his life to scientific research. Made several visits to his Irishestates, that began in 1647. Boyle moved to Ireland in 1652 but became frustrated at his inability to makeany progress in his work and described Ireland as "a barbarous country where chemical spirits were somisunderstood and chemical instruments so unprocurable ” In 1654, Boyle left Ireland for Oxford to pursue his work more successfully, where he joined agroup of natural philosophers .Robert Hooke entered as Boyle’s assistant at this time and helped him in hisexperiments. They built the air-pump (Given below) used to create vacuums with which Boyle carried outmany trials to elucidate the nature and importance of air. Boyles work with the air pump was published in 1660 under the title New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air, and its Effects. In this book Boyle made his first mention that‘the volume of a gas varies inversely to the pressure of the gas’, which is usually called Boyles Law. Boyledemonstrated the necessity of air for combustion, for animal breathing, and for the transmission of sound. Medieval science was dominated by the ideas of Aristotle (384-322 BC). Aristotle proposed thatmatter was composed of 4 elements – earth, air, fire, and water - which in varying proportions constitutedall things. Paracelsus (1493-1531), an adept in alchemy, proposed that various combinations of threecontrolling elements (mercury, sulphur, salt) accounted for the various properties of matter.
Modern chemistry is developed out of medieval alchemy. Alchemy was a pseudoscientific practicethat sought a method (by varying the proportions of the 3 controlling elements) of changing base metalsinto gold, an elixir to prolong life indefinitely, a panacea to cure all ills, and a solvent capable of dissolvinganything. Alchemy was still practiced in Boyle’s time and he himself studied the art.However, he sharplydifferentiated his scientific experimentation and theorising from his alchemical work. Boyle used his experiments to demonstrate that mechanical explanations of the world are betterthan the traditional qualitative explanations associated with the ideas of Aristotle.In his book ‘TheSceptical Chymist’, Boyle attacked Aristotle’s and Paracelsus’s theories. He proposed that elements arebasically composed of ‘corpuscles’ of various sorts and sizes capable of organising themselves into groupsand that each group constitutes a chemical substance. He clearly distinguished between mixtures andcompounds and showed that a compound can have very different properties from those of itsconstituents. This prefigured the atomic theory of matter .
Spagyric is a name given to the production of herbal medicines using alchemy which involvefermentation , distillation and the extraction of mineral components from the ashes of the plants . Theseprocesses were in use in medieval alchemy for the separation and purification of metals from ores, andsalts from brines and other aqueous solutions Boyle stated that the proper object of chemistry was analysis of composition and he coined theterm ‘analysis’ . He was also the first chemist to collect a sample of gas. Apart from chemistry Boyle mademany other contributions to science. Boyle died on 31st December 1691 in London, England. In his will, Boyle endowed a series oflectures which came to be known as the Boyle Lectures.