Title page of 'The Sceptical Chymist' by Robert Boyle, c 1661.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Boyle (1627-1691) was the seventh son of the first Earl of Cork. He and his asistant Robert Hooke worked on improvements to the air pump invented by Otto von Guericke. Boyle's many experiments on air, vacuum, combustion, and respiration resulted the publication in 1661 of 'The Sceptical Chymist', in which he criticised current theories of matter, in particular those relating to alchemy. In 1662 he formulated Boyle's Law, which states that the presure and volume of gas are inversely proportional. Boyle also carried out research regarding the properties of acids and alkalis, specific gravity and crystallography, and was one of the first chemists to prepare phosphorus.