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Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is mainly known as the "Father of Modern Chemistry" (although he was an alchemist) and was one of the founding members of the Royal Society - which was the world's first international scientific organization. He was a notable figure in the history of "natural philosophy" (science) and, like many scientists at that time, was a Christian. His contributions to chemistry in particular were significant and marked an important transition point in the history of chemical research. Perhaps his main contribution was in making chemistry into a respectable and systematic part of natural philosophy by generating an experimental methodology for alchemists which emphasized evidence, repeatability, public verification and scrutiny of experimental results, quantification, and the use of pure materials to have more control over accuracy of interpretation (impurities often produced mixed and contradictory results which caused confusion more than clarity). Boyle is mostly known for verifying and discovering the proportional relationship of Pressure and Volume for gases by holding the Temperature constant, namely, he verified one side of the Ideal Gas Law (PV = nRT). If you are looking for the source on that particular discovery (how he derived PV = k), please see The Laws Of Gases: Memoirs By Robert Boyle And E. H. Amagat (1899).
The Sceptical Chymist (1661), which was published 1 year after the formation of the Royal Society and contains the research spirit of that organization, is probably his most notable work and it discusses numerous chemical and methodological issues during that time period.Read more ›
As a former chemist, this book widened my understanding of the roots of my science. We all study Boyle's Law and we all know of the alchemist origin of chemistry so this book presents us with the alchemical side of Boyle, not his gas pressure side we are most familiar with. It is a bit hard to read, yet, like an oyster pried from its shell, well worth the effort. The modern reader will be transported to the technical English used in the 1600's and will have to look up some words, an example of which is "menstrumm" for solvent. The reader will also have to a small bit of online Latin translation as Boyle quotes from other contemporaries who wrote in Latin. This is an original writing, not a watered down condensed or abridged version, and as such the reader is transported back to a time when the concept of the elements were not yet known let alone any such thing as a Periodic Table of them. The focus is mainly to dispute with examples, not rhetoric, the Aristotelian premise of the four elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire and the three principals of mercury, sulfur and salt. I do recommend this book to any serious student of the History of Chemistry or Alchemy, or any student of the Renaissance and it's changing philosophy. One does not have to have a degree in chemistry to understand it, especially since and as "chemistry", as we know it today, did not exist when this book was written.
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