Boyle portrait click here to return to homepageRobert Boyle website banner
Learn about Boyle What's new in Boyle studies Researchers' area Teachers' area View Boyle manuscripts

  Home > Researchers' Area - Archive > On the Boyle (issue no. 1: April 1997)


a newsletter of work in progress on
Robert Boyle (1627-91)

No. 1: April 1997

Vignette by Gravelot from Birch's edition of Boyle's Works (1744)


This publication is intended to bring news of the current state of Boyle studies to all those interested. This issue contains a special feature about the largest Boyle project currently under way, the edition of Boyle's Works and Correspondence forthcoming in the 'Pickering Masters' series. In addition, it has news about other research on Boyle that is in progress: the column that follows includes such information as we have been given in response to our call for news, but we are aware that we may not have heard of all current research. If you are working on Boyle and your project is not reported here, let us know, so that details can be included in the next issue. Finally, the newsletter contains a list of publications on Boyle that have appeared since the bibliography was compiled for Robert Boyle Reconsidered (ed. Michael Hunter, Cambridge University Press, 1994): the idea is that this will be updated on a regular basis. Again, please let us know of any omissions.

Peter Anstey, University of Sydney
Michael Hunter, University of London


Note: the prime object of this section is to draw attention to work that is well-advanced but not yet published. A point will be made of drawing attention to monographs devoted specifically to Boyle which are imminent, in view of their significance for the field. However, articles and contributions to collaborative volumes that have been accepted for publication and/or are already in proof will not appear here; instead, they will be included as publications once they have come out. This may result in a slight timelag, but the alternative is a tiresome amount of duplication.

Please continue to send items for this section: information about Ph.D. theses in progress, both on Boyle and on closely related topics, would be especially welcome (we do not, however, feel that B.A. or M.A. degree work is appropriate unless of outstanding significance).

Peter Anstey's dissertation, entitled 'Qualities, Causes and Laws: a Study in the Corpuscular Philosophy of Robert Boyle', has been accepted for the degree of Ph.D. at the University of Sydney. He is planning a larger study of Boyle's views on evidence, experiment and scientific knowledge, and will be giving a paper on Boyle's mechanical philosophy at the conference, 'What is this Thing called Science? Twenty Years On', at Sydney, 20-22 June 1997.

Alan Chalmers will also be speaking on Boyle at the same conference.

Antonio Clericuzio gave a paper on 'Atomism, Natural Philosophy and the Problem of Generation: Gassendi, Charleton, Boyle' at the St Andrews Conference on Corpuscularianism, July 1996, and is continuing to work on Boyle's theory of matter in the context of seventeenth-century corpuscular philosophy.

Michael Hunter is organising a conference, 'Psychoanalysing Robert Boyle', at which Boyle will be subjected to interpretations by practitioners of three contrasting psychoanalytial schools, at Birkbeck College on 12 July 1997. In addition, he has been limbering up for his intended biography of Boyle by writing the entry on him for the New D.N.B. Since this will not be out for some time, he would be happy to supply a copy to anyone who would like to see it.

Patrick Little of the History of Parliament Trust, London, is writing a Ph.D. thesis on Boyle's brother, Roger, 1st Earl of Orrery, with particular reference to his role in Interregnum politics.

Bill Newman and Lawrence Principe have been awarded a three-year combined NEH/NSF grant to study the collaboration between Boyle and George Starkey, and the demarcation between early modern alchemy and chemistry.

Margaret Osler has carried out extensive research on 'The Reinterpretation of Final Causes in Seventeenth-century Natural Philosophy', supported by grants from the NEH, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Calgary Institute for the Humanities. She has given various papers on these topics, two of which were published in 1996 (see page 8).

Malcolm Oster was awarded a Royal Society research grant in March 1996 to work on manuscript material relating to aspects of Boyle's chemistry and pneumatics, and more generally on his development of the mechanical philosophy; he is currently preparing articles based on this research.

Lawrence Principe's The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and his Alchemical Quest will be published by Princeton University Press late in 1997 or early in 1998.

Andrew Pyle plans, during his stay in Australia in 1997, to give a paper on recent misinterpretations of Boyle at the conference at Sydney referred to above.

Jan Wojcik's book, Robert Boyle and the Limits of Reason (Cambridge University Press), has just come out. She is currently working on essays on Boyle and the diversity of religions, and on his views on the limits of reason as expressed in Latin texts surviving among the Boyle Papers.

Sergei Zakin of Trinity College, Cambridge, is writing a Ph.D. thesis on science-writing in the Restoration period with case-studies of Boyle, Cowley, Glanvill and Traherne.

Back to top| Robert Boyle Home Page


As most readers of this newsletter will be aware, work is well advanced on a new edition of Boyle's Works and Correspondence, to be published in the 'Pickering Masters' series by Pickering & Chatto. The editors are Michael Hunter and Edward B. Davis for the Works, and Michael Hunter and Antonio Clericuzio for the Correspondence. In the latter case, a crucial foundation was provided by the late Dr R.E.W. Maddison in the early 1960s, who, supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, transcribed many hitherto unpublished letters to and from Boyle; we have also been able to draw on the edition of the Boyle-Oldenburg correspondence by A.R. and M.B. Hall. The current work is being supported by grants from the Leverhulme Trust, the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Royal Society (in the case of the Works), and the British Academy, the Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche and the Foundation for Intellectual History (in the case of the Correspondence). Valuable support has also been provided by the institutions to which the editors are attached (Birkbeck College, Messiah College, PA, and the University of Cassino). Preparations for the edition - focussed on Birkbeck College, where the Robert Boyle Project is based - are coming along well, with the Works currently scheduled for publication in 1999, and the Correspondence in 2000.

The edition will have the following features. In the case of The Works of Robert Boyle, a copy text has been selected for each of Boyle's books - usually the first edition - which will be presented in unmodernised form. Each such text has been collated with other editions associated with Boyle, both in Latin and English, and variants noted. All works will be annotated in full, and translations provided of quotations in languages other than English, as also of passages which appear only in the Latin editions. Each work will be provided with an introductory note giving the history of its composition and publication, together with a table itemising all material in the Boyle archive relating to the work in question; such material has also been collated with the text and variants noted or, if appropriate, printed in full.

Volume 1 of the Works will contain a general introduction sketching Boyle's intellectual evolution and placing his works in this context; it will also deal with Boyle's relations with his publishers, with the Latin translations of his works, and with the evolving sense of a 'corpus' of his writings deserving tabulation and collection.

The final two volumes of the Works will include various hitherto unpublished texts by Boyle, mostly from the Boyle archive but also including the original version of Boyle's Martyrdom of Theodora and of Didymus, now in the library of St John's College, Oxford. The writings included will range from Boyle's formative years to his maturity, covering the whole range of his intellectual interests; a further component will be a complete text of Boyle's inventories of his unpublished writings, which will be drawn on in the account of Boyle's intellectual evolution in the Introduction and which will also be of wider interest.

The edition of The Correspondence of Robert Boyle will present all known letters to or from Boyle in chronological order. It will also include notes on letters known once to have existed which have since been lost. All letters will be printed from the best available text, usually the original manuscript, but from a printed text when the manuscript no longer survives. Translations will be provided of letters in all languages other than English. All letters will be fully annotated. The bulk of this work is being carried out by the editors, but assistance is being given by other scholars, notably Lawrence Principe and Bill Newman on alchemical letters to and from Boyle, and Janelle Evans on those relating to the project for translating the Bible into Gaelic with which Boyle was connected. In addition, full notes on all seals will be provided.

An ancillary project for which funding has been generously provided by the Wellcome Trust will commence in October 1997, namely the preparation of an electronic edition of Boyle's work-diaries, covering medical and scientific topics from 1650 to the end of his life, with a prelude from the late 1640s covering literary topics. Largely because they are scattered through the Boyle archive, these notes have not hitherto received the attention that they deserve; they comprise a wide range of data relating to Boyle's interests and activities, including experiments, observations, and recipes. They will be transcibed and annotated in Idealist, and the idea is that an electronic text will be distributed in this form in due course.

One of the challenges still to be faced is that of indexing all this material. The Works and Correspondence will each have a printed index in their final volume; in the case of the work-diaries, an electronic searching package will be built into the edition as it is produced. It is hoped that the different indices will be as fully compatible as possible, so that ultimately they can be brought together to provide a complete finding aid to Boyle's corpus. With this in mind, the editors are trying to devise the overall structure of the entries in the index, particularly those dealing with themes in Boyle's ideas and other conceptual matters, in advance of the actual indexing. A draft of this structure will be available later this year, and we would welcome advice on it from any readers of the newsletter: please let Michael Hunter know if you would like to be sent a copy for comment.

Back to top | Robert Boyle Home Page

Writings on Boyle since 1994

an Update to the Bibliography in Robert Boyle Reconsidered (CUP, 1994)

Note: This listing includes a few items that, though published in 1993, appeared only after Robert Boyle Reconsidered had gone to press. It repeats items there announced as forthcoming, the bibliographical details of which were necessarily incomplete. Earlier items omitted from the bibliography will be included in a future issue of On the Boyle: suggestions for inclusion are welcome.

Baldwin, Martha, 'Toads and Plague: Amulet Therapy in Seventeenth-century Medicine', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 67 (1993), 227-47

Barnard, T.C., 'Protestants and the Irish Language, c. 1675-1725', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 44 (1993), 243-72

Burton, J.D., 'Crimson Missionaries: the Robert Boyle Legacy and Harvard College', New England Quarterly, 67 (1994), 132-40

Chalmers, Alan, 'The Lack of Excellency of Boyle's Mechanical Philosophy', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 24 (1993), 541-64

Clericuzio, Antonio, 'New Light on Benjamin Worsley's Natural Philosophy', in Mark Greengrass, Michael Leslie and Timothy Raylor (eds.), Samuel Hartlib and Universal Reformation: Studies in Intellectual Communication (Cambridge University Press, 1994), 236-46

---, 'The Internal Laboratory: the Chemical Reinterpretation of Medical Spirits in England (1650-1680)', in Piyo Rattansi and Antonio Clericuzio (eds.), Alchemy and Chemistry in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), 51-83

Davis, Edward B., 'The Anonymous Works of Robert Boyle and the Reasons why a Protestant Should not Turn Papist (1687)', Journal of the History of Ideas, 55 (1994), 611-29

Davis, Edward B., and Hunter, Michael (eds.), Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Giglioni, Guido, 'Automata Compared: Boyle, Leibniz and the Debate on the Notion of Life and Mind', British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 3 (1995), 249-78

Golinski, Jan, 'Essay Review: Robert Boyle's Coat of Many Colours', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 28 (1997), 209-17

Gotti, Maurizio, Robert Boyle and the Language of Science (Milan: Guerini Scientifica, 1996)

Hunter, Michael, Robert Boyle by Himself and his Friends, with a Fragment of William Wotton's Lost 'Life of Boyle' (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1994)

---, 'A New Boyle Find', BSHS Newsletter, 45 (Oct. 1994), 20-1

---,'How Boyle Became a Scientist', History of Science, 33 (1995), 59-103

---,'Robert Boyle and the Dilemma of Biography in the Age of the Scientific Revolution', in Michael Shortland and Richard Yeo (eds.), Telling Lives in Science: Essays on Scientific Biography (Cambridge University Press, 1996), 115-37

---, 'The Reluctant Philanthropist: Robert Boyle and the "Communication of Secrets and Receits in Physick"', in O.P.Grell and Andrew Cunningham (eds.), Religio Medici: Medicine and Religion in Seventeenth-century England (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), 247-72

Hunter, Michael, with Davis, Edward B., 'The Making of Robert Boyle's Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Receiv'd Notion of Nature (1686)', Early Science and Medicine, 1 (1996), 204-71

Jacobs, Struan, 'Laws of Nature, Corpuscles and Concourse: Non-occasionalist Tendencies in the Natural Philosophy of Robert Boyle', Journal of Philosophical Research, 19 (1994), 373-93

Jenkins, Jane E., 'Matter and Vacuum in Robert Boyle's Natural Philosophy', University of Toronto Ph.D. thesis, 1995

Kaplan, Barbara B., 'Divulging of Useful Truths in Physick'. The Medical Agenda of Robert Boyle (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993)

Klein, Ursula, 'Robert Boyle - Der Begrunder de neuzeitlichen Chemie?', Philosophia Naturalis, 31 (1996), 63-106

Krips, Henry, 'Ideology, Rhetoric, and Boyle's New Experiments', Science in Context, 7 (1994), 53-64

MacIntosh, J.J., 'Animals, Morality and Robert Boyle', Dialogue, 35 (1996), 435-72

Markley, Robert, Fallen Languages: Crises of Representation in Newtonian England, 1660-1740 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993)

---, 'Robert Boyle in and Out of his Time', The Eighteenth Century, 35 (1994), 280-6

Meynell, Guy, 'Locke, Boyle and Peter Stahl', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 49 (1995), 185-92

Mulligan, Lotte, 'Robert Boyle, "Right Reason" and the Meaning of Metaphor', Journal of the History of Ideas, 55 (1994), 235-57

Newman, William, Gehennical Fire: the Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994)

---, 'George Starkey and the Selling of Secrets', in Mark Greengrass, Michael Leslie and Timothy Raylor (eds.), Samuel Hartlib and Universal Reformation: Studies in Intellectual Communication (Cambridge University Press, 1994), 193-210

---, 'The Alchemical Sources of Robert Boyle's Corpuscular Philosophy', Annals of Science, 53 (1996), 567-85

Osler, Margaret, Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

---, 'From Immanent Natures to Nature as Artifice: the Reinterpretation of Final Causes in Seventeenth-century Natural Philosophy', The Monist, 79 (1996), 388-408

---, 'Triangulating Divine Will: Henry More, Robert Boyle and René Descartes on God's Relationship to the Creation', in Marailuisa Baldi (ed.), Stoicismo e Origenismo nella Filosofia del Seicento Inglese (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1996), 75-87

Oster, Malcolm, 'Millenarianism and the New Science: the Case of Robert Boyle', in Mark Greengrass, Michael Leslie and Timothy Raylor (eds.), Samuel Hartlib and Universal Reformation: Studies in Intellectual Communication (Cambridge University Press, 1994), 137-48

Principe, Lawrence M., 'Style and Thought of the Early Boyle: Discovery of the 1648 Manuscript of Seraphic Love', Isis, 85 (1994), 247-60

---, 'Newly Discovered Boyle Documents in the Royal Society Archive: Alchemical Tracts and his Student Notebook', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 49 (1995), 57-70

---, 'Virtuous Romance and Romantic Virtuoso: the Shaping of Robert Boyle's Literary Style', Journal of the History of Ideas, 56 (1995), 377-97

Sargent, Rose-Mary, The Diffident Naturalist: Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995)

Shapin, Steven, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994)

Stewart, M.A., 'Locke's "Observations" on Boyle', The Locke Newsletter, 24 (1993), 21-34

White, Christian, 'The English Essay from Bacon to Boyle', University of Leeds Ph.D. thesis, 1996

Wojcik, Jan W., Robert Boyle and the Limits of Reason (Cambridge University Press, 1997)

More bibliographies: 1940-94 | April 1997-November 1998 | November 1998-December 1999 | December 1999-January 2001

Back to top | Robert Boyle Home Page

Items for inclusion in future editions of on the Boyle should be sent either to Michael Hunter at Department of History, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX (e-mail: m.hunter @, or to Peter Anstey at Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy, University of Sydney, New South Wales, 2006, Australia (e-mail: Peter.Anstey@