Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas


Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

Robert Boyle:
Ireland's Scientific Mark on Humanity
An essay by Alice McDaniels


The following is the essay that won Alice McDaniels the 2012 ICSSA Scholarship Award.

Robert Boyle

Many times, when thinking of what makes life these days easier and more comfortable, generally people think of the computer, medicine, cars, air conditioners and their portable music players. The last thing people think of is science, specifically chemistry. But without chemistry, there would be no computer processors to get work done and spread news, no advanced medicine to heal sick family members or provide necessary nutrients to people in need, no functioning combustion engine for cars to get people to work or to the doctor, no air conditioners to cool people off in the summer, and no luxury of music at hand. Each one of these inventions requires the perfect balance between chemicals, gases, pressure, and electrons to function at all. If it hadn't been for Robert Boyle, who studied and advocated the spread of scientific knowledge, then the luxuries and technology we have today would not exist. Robert Boyle made a huge contribution to better humanity through his passion, dedication, and interest in science and chemistry. Throughout his life he made countless contributions to the study of science. He's most famous for one of the three ideal gas laws, which he proved with his partner Hooke in 1675. (Group, 2001) Boyle's law states that at a constant temperature, a gas's pressure and volume are inversely proportional. (Group, 2001)This gas law is now taught in every basic chemistry class around the world, and is a fundamental concept in engineering. Boyle also developed the modern scientific process of doing controlled experiments that collect and analyze data to draw conclusions. (Group, 2001) He also contributed to maturing the concepts of atoms, elements and molecules, and applying his new definition of an element to disprove theories of alchemy (Cobb, 2005). He also used his knowledge and experimentation to show that sound needs air as a medium to be heard and developed the litmus test to delineate if something is an acid or a base. (Famous Scientists) Most importantly, Robert Boyle helped the world see that science has equations, measurements and laws as firm as mathematics, and lifted science from being seen as magic into something quantitative (Cobb, 2005). It can be argued that as Robert Boyle's passion for science and knowledge grew, so did his sphere of influence; from none, to almost the entire world. When Boyle was a young man he had no influence over anyone. Boyle spent the early years of his life in Ireland learning Irish, Latin, Greek and French (Famous Scientists). As a young child, as was ancient Irish tradition, Boyle was fostered out to a local Irish family. When he was about 8 years old, he moved to study in England at Eton College, where he was tutored in history and science. (Famous Scientists) It was during this time that his fascination grew and he was compelled to learn more. When he was 15 years old, he decided to tour Europe with his teacher and brother to further his studies, where he became intrigued with Galileo Galilei's theories and science.(Robert Boyle Life and Legacy). Boyle's sphere of influence first became noticeable when he was about 28 years old. He started to meet with a group of fellow scientists: Moray, Wilkens, and Wren (Robert Boyle Life and Legacy). At first, they were called the Invisible College and would meet to talk about science, philosophy and experiments (Royal Society). Their meetings mainly benefited themselves; motivating each other to push forward their new ideas in a time that wasn't accepting of science and philosophy. After several years, Boyles influence grew when the Invisible College appealed to King Charles II for permission to form a scientific group called the Royal Society (Royal Society). This group soon expanded to more great minds of the scientific world and advocates (Royal Society). This new group's main goal was to spread the knowledge and love of science to every person. They did this by publishing books on different topics, including Boyle's very own Sceptical Chymist, which concluded the element to be the limit to chemical analysis and recognized the importance of his findings to be brought to the attention to fellow scientists (Group, 2001) (Royal Society). Other great scientist including Lavoisier and Proust were influenced by Boyle (Knight, 2002). They were able to expand upon Boyles' identification and concepts of elements, atoms, and molecules to advance the knowledge of chemistry and make their own important discoveries and contributions to science (Knight, 2002) (jCobb, 2005). By influencing other eager scientists, Boyle created a lasting ripple effect that is still seen today. Without influencing other scientists, or working with Hooke, chemistry and the study of science would not be the same. At the time, Lavoisier and Proust were young men whose interest was piqued at just the right time. (Knight, 2002) They became some of the best chemists of their time and in turn made great discoveries with heat, combustion and chemical compounds (Weisstein, 1996) (American Chemical Society)(Britannica Encyclopedia). These two people alone influenced other great scientists who made important contributions to the advancements to science themselves. This ripple effect through science now enables other people to learn and become engineers and scientists to help advance the human race. Although Boyle is not alive to directly influence the scientific world, he has left a lasting legacy. If it weren't for his fearless advocacy, there would be no Royal Society, or maybe even not as many great scientists. Over the years, countless numbers of science foundations and organizations geared specifically towards spreading knowledge to others have been formed since Boyles death. Since childhood, Robert Boyle had been interested in science. The careful tutoring he received only sculpted his talent as an thinker, inventor and scientist and gave him an insatiable yearning to share his love for science. The Royal Society helped Boyle substantiate a vision of spreading scientific knowledge and truth to every person who wished to learn. As Boyle grew older, he shaped his own talent through his experiments and in turn, shared them with the world by publishing many books. Through his publications, he was able to influence many other great scientists, creating a ripple effect through history. Now, Boyle's law and discovers are still used today and have helped shape the world we live in. Reference: "Welcome to the Royal Society." The Royal Society: Welcome. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. royalsociety.org. "Famous Scientists Robert Boyle." Famous Scientists Robert Boyle. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. humantouchofchemistry.com/robertboyle. Weisstein, Eric W. "Lavoisier, Antoine (17431794)." Wolfram Research. World of Biography, 1996. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Lavoisier "JosephLouis Proust (French Chemist)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/480555/JosephLouisProust. "American Chemical Society The World's Largest Scientific Society." American Chemical Society The World's Largest Scientific Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true "ROBERT BOYLE." ROBERT BOYLE. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. woodrow.org/teachers/ci/1992/boyle "Robert Boyle Life and Legacy." - Robert Boyle. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. robertboyle.ie/aboutboyle Knight, Judson. Science of Everyday Things. N.p.: Scholar Info Group, 2002. Print. Cobb, Cathy. The Joy of Chemistry: The Amazing Science of Familiar Things. N.p.: n.p., 2005. Print. The Diagram Group. Facts on File Science Library. N.p.: n.p., 2001. Print.