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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Robert Boyle and nature


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, JohannKerseboom


Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was an Irish chemist best known for Boyle's Law regarding gas pressure. Writer James Henry Monk said,


"In the opinion of one of the most eminent modern naturalists, it was Boyle who opened up those chemical inquiries, which went on accumulating until, a century late, they supplied the means by which Lavoisier and his contemporaries fixed the real basis of chemistry, and enabled it for the first time to take its proper stand among those sciences that deal with the external world." (The Life of Richard Bentley, 1833)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Boyle


What is nature?


"Among Latin writers, the acceptations of the word 'nature' are so many, that I remember, one author reckons up no less than fourteen or fifteen... the very great ambiguity of this term, and the promiscuous use made of it, without sufficiently attending to its different significations, render many of the expressions wherein tis employed either unintelligible, improper, or false. " (A Free Inquiry into the Vulgar Notion of Nature)


"And of universal nature, the notion I would offer, should be something like this. Nature is the aggregate of the bodies that make up the world, in its present state, considered as a principle, by virtue whereof, they act and suffer, according to the laws of motion prescribed by the author of things." (A Free Inquiry into the Vulgar Notion of Nature)




"I consider then, that generally speaking, to render a reason of an effect or phaenomenon, is to deduce it from something else in nature more known than itself, and that consequently there may be divers kinds of degrees of explication of the same thing." (Physiological Essays, 1669)


"The requisites of a good hypothesis are: that it be intelligible. That it neither assume nor suppose anything impossible, unintelligible, or demonstrably false. That it be consistent with itself. That it be lit and sufficient to explicate the phaenomena, especially the chief. That it be, at least, consistent, with the rest of the phaenomena it particularly relates to, and do not contradict any other known phaenomena of nature, or manifest of physical truth." (Quoted in Divulging of Useful Truths in Physick by Barbara Kaplan)