Yale £14.99 (366pp) £13.49 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Boyle, By Michael Hunter
Friday 18 February 2011
Though his discoveries have been overshadowed by his younger contemporary Isaac Newton, this lucid and absorbing life reminds us that Robert Boyle "stands at the roots of British empiricism".
Through innovative experiment, he not only pioneered the study of gas pressure that resulted in his eponymous Law but also explored a host of other fields.
His discoveries that colours were dependent on light, and water expands when frozen, overturned dogmas held since the time of Aristotle.
A scientist before the word had been invented, his anxiety about rationalising his empirical work with his deep need for faith has a modern ring. Boyle makes a far more likeable subject for biography than the equally religiously obsessed Newton.
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