On this day, 395 years ago (25 January, 1627), Robert Boyle was born in Lismore, Co Waterford.
“The absolute pressure exerted by a given mass of an ideal gas is inversely proportional to the volume it occupies if the temperature and amount of gas remain unchanged within a closed system.”
Got that? This is Boyle’s Law, which basically means the pressure of a gas goes up, as the container it is in gets smaller. Sounds simple, but at the time it was developed by Robert Boyle, it was ground breaking.
Boyle was from a wealthy land-owning family who lived at the beautiful Lismore Castle by the banks of the Blackwater River. He came from enormous wealth and privilege, but he was far from idle; in fact, Boyle was one of the most brilliant minds of his day and is regarded now as a true scientific pioneer and trailblazer. He is one of the founders of modern chemistry as well as one of the first scientists to use a modern, rigorous scientific method. After moving to Oxford in 1654 he began a series of experiments looking at the properties of gases that eventually resulted in his namesake law. He also made discoveries relating to how sound travels through air, the qualities of freezing water and a variety of other investigations, as well as publishing what is regarded as the definitive early chemistry text, The Sceptical Chymist in 1661.
He was very close to his sister, who is widely acknowledged as an uncredited assistant to many of his studies, and he eventually left Oxford to live with her in London. He died in 1691, just a week after his sister predeceased him.
The Boyle Medal for Scientific Excellence awarded by the Royal Dublin Society and The Irish Times, is Ireland’s most prestigious scientific honour and is named after Robert Boyle, and the Waterford Institute of Technology hosts an annual summer school in his honour.
What Have the Irish Ever Done for Us? (Currach Books) tells the remarkable stories of some well-known and not so well-known Irish people who have made their mark with stories of courage, ingenuity, perseverance and selflessness, their influence are felt far beyond Ireland’s shores.