|Term Paper Title
|# of Words
|# of Pages (250 words per page double spaced)
The English scene of the seventeenth century is a particularly rich one
with regard to its contributions to the scientific revolution. The discovery
and development of America moved Britain from the edge of the civilized world
into the center of the new world, in which the sciences were to play a major
role. During this period, in the field of chemistry, theories which offered
direct opposition to Aristotelian natural philosophy and Paracelsian principles
were rapidly disseminating. These notions had an immense influence in the
scientific career of Robert Boyle, whose corpuscular philosophy was itself to
direct the progress of chemistry for the next century.
Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was born within a year of Francis Bacon's
(1561-1626) death, and was widely regarded as his scientific heir. John
Hughes, a contemporary writer, described him as 'designed by nature to succeed
to the labours and enquiries of that extraordinary genius ...'.
Robert was Richard Boyle's (1566-1643) seventh and youngest son. He
was born in his father's mansion at Lismore in Munster, Ireland, on the
twenty-fifth day of January 1627. As soon as Robert was old enough, his
father, the First Earl of Cork, had him taught French and Latin. At the age of
nine, he was sent, together with his elder brother Francis, to Eton, to be
educated under the guidance of his father's friend Sir Henry Wotton
(1568-1639). Wotton had spent many years in Venice as an ambassador, and was a
cultured man; under Wotton, Eton had become a highly respectable and
The instruction of the nine-year-old Boyle was supervised by the
headmaster, John Harrison, who according to Crowther, 'created in the young
Boyle a passion for learning.' It seems that Boyle's enthusiasm for reading
was first awakened by Quintus Curtius's History of Alexander the Great's
Conquests. However, according to Crowther, Boyle's imagination was animated
only after his reading of Aadis de Gaule, and other fabulous stories. Boyle's
readings at Eton so accustomed his mind to roving thoughts that ever afterwards
he never quite succeeded in disciplining it; Crowther attributed Boyle's
discursive style to this disposition.
Boyle's father, like other Tudor Protestant aristocrats, liked his
children to be brought up by men of pure Calvinist strain, to ensure their
indoctrination against Roman Catholicism. Consequently, he engaged as his
sons' governor and tutor M. Marcombes, a French gentleman from Geneva. Under
Marcombes' governorship, Francis and Robert were sent on a grand tour of Europe
for the completion of their education as was customary.
In Marcombes' house in Geneva, Boyle was taught logic and rhetoric, but
these, according to him, 'slighter studies' were soon displaced by a passion
for algebra and geometry. Like many other eminent scientists, Boyle satisfied
his youthful appetite for miscellaneous facts of nature and science from a
popular encyclopedia, On The Word. It was, according to Boyle, full of
'curious and serious discourse' which, according to Crowther, made him say that
it was 'worth its title'.
At Geneva, Boyle experienced a terrific summer thunderstorm which
deeply affected his psychology. The flashes of lightning and claps of thunder
were so violent that he thought the day of judgement was at hand. This made
him to suddenly realize how unfitted he was to give a satisfactory account of
himself to his Maker. He resolved that he would henceforth lead a more
religious life and regarded the incident as a religious conversion.
When the resources of Boyle's family were placed in disarray during the
Irish rebellion, Robert and Francis set out on their return from Europe as they
could no longer meet the expenses of their stay. They reached England in the
summer of 1644, finding the country in confusion. Robert learned that he had
inherited Stalbridge in Dorsetshire after his father's death a year earlier.
He found his sister, Cather...
Read entire document