What Was Robert Boyle’s Contribution to the Atomic Theory?

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Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is known as “The Father of Chemistry” for his discovery that atoms must exist based on the relationship between pressure and volume of gas. His theorem called Boyle’s Law reasons that because a fixed mass of gas can be compressed, gas must be made of particles, or atoms, because there is space between them. Boyle’s discoveries helped bring chemistry into the modern age.

Robert Boyle was born in County Waterford, Ireland and studied at Eton College and Oxford University in England. While at Oxford, he carried out numerous experiments with Robert Hooke and other “natural philosophers,” as scientists were often called during his time. He then moved to London, where he began publishing his discoveries. The law he is most famous for was published in a text entitled “The Spring of the Air.” Boyle proposed that “the volume of a fixed mass of gas at a constant temperature is inversely proportional to the gas’s pressure.” Though his atomic theory did not get further than proposing that atoms must exist, it was still an essential building block in the overall history of atomic theory.

Boyle’s discoveries were important, but his methods also had a share in ushering in a new age of scientific exploration. Boyle made a sharp distinction between the mysticism of alchemical experimentation that was popular at the time and the fact-based evidence gleaned from his chemical experiments.