Robert Boyle is known as the father of chemistry. In his writings, he strongly argued that the principles and methods of chemistry must be applied to studying the natural world and medicine, which became a cornerstone for modern chemistry. However, Boyle is also known in physics for various discoveries about the physical characteristics of air, including Boyle’s law (that the volume of a gas decreases with increasing pressure and vice versa) and the relationship between air and the propagation of sound.
Boyle was also a visionary and inventor. At one point he made a “wish list” of 24 possible inventions that seemed extraordinary at the time, yet all but a few have now happened. These include the “art of flying,” “perpetual light,” “a ship to sail with all winds, and a ship not to be sunk,” and “potent drugs to alter or exalt imagination, waking, memory and other functions and appease pain, procure innocent sleep, harmless dreams, etc.”
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Boyle was a sincere Christian who attempted to use science to support Christianity throughout his career. In addition to his scientific contributions, Boyle was noted for his many writings in theology. His book “The Christian Virtuoso” (published in 1690) argues that faith in Jesus promotes a greater mind, leading to better scientific understanding. In the book, Boyle demonstrated his views that studying nature as a product of God’s handiwork is a religious duty. He argued that through such study, God’s goodness and existence would be illuminated.
Boyle’s concern about the rise of atheism led him to demonstrate ways in which science and faith were compatible. He used scientific methods to analyze complex faith questions. For example, he conducted experiments to discover whether resurrection of the body was possible (like that of Jesus).
Boyle gave money to missionary societies and other organizations to promote the spread of Christianity and translation of the Bible into other languages. Upon his death, he designated a portion of his estate to be used for a lecture series to defend Christianity in relationship to an understanding of the natural world. These lectures, now known as the Boyle Lectures, continue today.