Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/566

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SKETCH OF ROBERT BOYLE.

THE services of Robert Boyle to science are described in the National Biography as "unique, notwithstanding occasional failing on the side of credulousness"—a failing which Sir Henry Ackland excuses as due rather to the age than to the person. Boerhaave regarded Boyle as the father of experimental philosophy, "the ornament of his age and country, who succeeded to the genius and talent of the Chancellor of Verulam," and indulged in somewhat extravagant eulogy of his work.

Robert Boyle, the fourteenth child and seventh son of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork and Orrery, was born at Lismore Castle, Munster, Ireland, January 25, 1627, and died in London, December 30, 1691. He was put into the care of a country nurse, with instructions to bring him up as she would one of her own children, his father saying that he would avoid the excessive tenderness which parents were liable to exercise toward their own children, guarding them as carefully from the sun and the rain "as if they were butter or sugar." Although the nurse carried out these instructions faithfully, her ward grew up of weak constitution and subject to many infirmities. He learned to speak Latin and French in his earliest years, but showed, as he advanced in his studies, a more decided inclination toward the sciences. When eight years old he was sent to Eton to school, leaving Ireland, according to Sir Henry W. Ackland's terse summary of his life, "in a gale of wind, and when the coast was 'infested by the Turkish Gallies'; but, after touching at 'Ilfordcombe and Minehead,' he happily arrived at Bristol. He shortly afterwards went to Eton, where (we are told) 'he lost much of that Latin that he had got; for he was so addicted to the more solid parts of knowledge that he hated the study of bare words naturally,'" The college was then under the charge of his father's friend, Sir Henry Wotton. After spending three years there, he was placed as a private pupil with the rector of Stalbridge, in Dorsetshire. In 1638 he started on his travels, under the care of a "wise and intelligent tutor," passing through Normandy to Paris, thence to Lyons, and thence to Geneva, where he stayed twenty-one months. In the autumn of 1641 he visited Switzerland and Italy, to spend the winter in Florence, where, he himself wrote, he "spent his spare hours in reading . . . the new paradoxes of that great stargazer Galileo, whose ingenious books, perhaps because they could not be so otherwise, were confuted by a decree from Rome; his Highness the Pope, it seems, presuming, and that justly, that the infallibility of his chair extended equally to determine points in philosophy and religion, and loth to have the sta-