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Boyle, Robert (1627-1691): library catalogue

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 MS/23
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: Boyle, Robert (1627-1691): library catalogue
Date(s): [1691]
Level of description: Sub-fonds
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Warr | John | junior | fl 1691 | executor of Robert Boyle
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Robert Boyle was born on 25 January 1627 at Lismore, Munster, seventh son of the notorious Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork, thereby having high status and considerable wealth. His education began at home, then continued at Eton and with foreign travel from 1639. He visited France, Geneva - where he suffered a conversion experience which was to have a profound effect on him - and Italy, where he discovered the writings of Galileo. He returned to England in 1644, taking up residence at the family manor of Stalbridge, Dorset, from 1645. He visited Ireland in 1652-1653, then by 1656 moved to Oxford where he joined the circle of natural philosophers there which formed the liveliest centre of English science at that time. After the Restoration in 1660, many of them moved to London, where the Royal Society was founded (with Boyle among its founding Fellows), although Boyle did not move there until 1668, sharing a house in Pall Mall with his sister Katherine, Lady Ranelagh, until they both died in 1691. In the 1640's he became preoccupied with themes which were to continue throughout his life - vindication of an approved understanding of nature, in its own right as well as its utilitarian advantages; insistence on the importance of experiment in pursuing this aim, and the advocacy of spirituality. To these ends he became involved with other like-minded individuals known as the 'Invisible College', and subsequently the circle of intellectuals surrounding the Prussian emigré, Samuel Hartlib. He devoted his life to extensive and systematic experimentation, and to writing. His major scientific work on pneumatics, 'New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Air and its Effects', used the air pump as the key piece of equipment used to explore the physical properties of air, vindicated the possibility of a vacuum, illustrated the extent to which life depended on air, and proved that the volume of air varies inversely with its pressure (Boyle's Law). 1661 saw the publication of the 'Sceptical Chemist' and 'Certain Physiological Essays', the beginning of a series where he sought to vindicate a mechanistic theory of matter and to remodel chemistry along new lines, and where he crucially vindicated an experimental approach. In the 1670's his publications continued the previous themes, but also included theology. In the 1680's, his interest shifted to medical matters, such as 'Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood' (1684), or the collections of recipes in his 'Medicinal Experiments' (1688-1694). At the same time, he continued his work as a Christian apologist, his 'The Christian Virtuoso' appearing in 1690. His concern about the theological implications of the new philosophy can be seen in 'Discourse of Things above Reason' (1681) and 'Disquisition about the Final Causes of Things' (1688). On his death in 1691 he endowed a Lectureship to expound the Christian message. His significance to the development of natural philosphy was recognised in his lifetime, and his influence was particularly important for Isaac Newton, the leading figure in the following generation, whose work is seen as the culmination of the scientific achievement of seventeenth-century England.


Scope and content/abstract:

A catalogue of books of the library of Robert Boyle, in the hand of John Warr junior, executor of Robert Boyle and some theological notes.

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Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

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Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Royal Society catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Feb 2009.

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