On the Boyle
A newsletter of work in progress on Robert Boyle (1627-91)
No. 7: November 2005

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

Editorial note

This section of the website has been jointly produced by Peter Anstey, University of Sydney, and Michael Hunter, University of London. Like its predecessor, On the Boyle, no. 6 (June 2004), it is the successor of the printed newsletter, On the Boyle: a Newsletter of Work in Progress on Robert Boyle (1627-91), of which five issues were published between April 1997 and March 2002 (for copies of these and of no. 6, see this page).

As seems appropriate to its online format, On the Boyle itself now mainly comprises a set of announcements, including news of work in progress on Boyle and a list of recent publications on him. However, the flexibility of electronic publication is illustrated by the fact that we are able to attach a PDF file of a full-length article by Noel Malcolm which those using the website can download for themselves. Note also the downloadable Occasional Papers of the Robert Boyle Project, details of which appear below. The editors would welcome news of any current research on Boyle, or other events connected with him: please send these to or

Boyle news - Nov 2005

Peter Anstey ( is currently writing a paper (with Michael Hunter) on Boyle's Baconianism with special reference to Boyle's letter to Henry Oldenburg of 13 June 1666 . He is also researching the views of Boyle, Locke, Sydenham and others on health and the environment, as well as undertaking a detailed examination of Boyle's relations with Locke.

Iordan Avramov ( is continuing to work both on Henry Oldenburg and the 'book culture' of the early Royal Society, and on Robert Boyle as a reader, on which he hopes to publish a collaborative study with Michael Hunter.

The Boyle Lectures, originally founded under one of the provisions of Boyle's will, have been revived and the third of the new series will take place at the church of St Mary le Bow in the City of London on Wednesday, 22 February 2006. As on the previous two occasions, a prominent figure will speak on an aspect of the science-theology interface and another will respond: the 2006 lecture will be by the American theologian, Philip Clayton, and the response will be by Niels Gregersen, Professor of Systematic Theology at Copenhagen . The previous speakers were Jack Haught and Simon Conway Norris, and the respondents were the Bishop of London and Emeritus Professor Keith Ward. For further information, contact Dr Michael Byrne (

Antonio Clericuzio ( has written a paper on 'The Hartlib Circle and Robert Boyle's Early Career' which will be published in Nuncius. He is continuing his research on Boyle's matter theory and seventeenth-century chemistry.

Brian Dean ( is making good progress with his PhD dissertation at the University of Chicago, supervised by Lisa Downing, on Boyle's debate with Henry More over the metaphysical and explanatory pictures appropriate to hydrostatics.

Peter Elmer ( ) has now almost finished his book-length study of Valentine Greatrakes (see earlier issues of On the Boyle), in which he seeks to define the role of the Greatrakes affair in the religious and political history of Restoration England.

Roger Gaskell ( has sadly not yet found a volunteer to assist in the important work of revising Fulton's Bibliography of Boyle (see On the Boyle, no. 6). If anyone has an interest in the project, or suggestions as to how new material on the bibliography of Boyle's works can be gathered and made available - not necessarily as a formal revision of Fulton - he would be glad to hear from them.

Hiro Hirai ( and Hideyuki Yoshimoto ( have published an article on Boyle's sources in The Sceptical Chymist (see 'Publications on Boyle'), and are continuing to work on the young Boyle's source-books for chemical and mineralogical matters.

Michael Hunter ( ) gave a guest lecture to the British Society for the History of Science in June on 'Robert Boyle and the Early Royal Society: a Reciprocal Exchange in the Making of Baconian Science'. Since then, he has been working on collaborative projects with Peter Anstey and Harriet Knight on aspects of Boyle's Baconianism. He is also continuing to work on his biography of Boyle.

Harriet Knight ( is drawing both on her PhD thesis (see On the Boyle, no. 6), and on collaborative work that she has done with Michael Hunter on Boyle's Paralipomena and his Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood , to develop a revisionist view of Boyle's attitude to print.

The new Boyle rooms at the Heritage Centre at Lismore, co. Waterford, are now fully operational. For information about them, see the new website address for the Heritage Centre, which is

Jack MacIntosh ( has now passed the final proofs of his Boyle on Atheism, which is due to be published by University of Toronto Press in February 2006.

Tina Malcolmson ( is writing a book on Race, Religion and Science in the Works of Robert Boyle and Margaret Cavendish for Ashgate. Currently, she is studying the influence of Biblical monogenesis on experiments and queries about skin colour in the early Royal Society.

Bill Newman ( ) has completed a book, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Origins of the Scientific Revolution , which will be published by University of Chicago Press in the coming year. About a third of the book deals with Boyle's mechanical philosophy and its relationship to the work of previous chymists.

Occasional papers of the Robert Boyle Project

The Robert Boyle Project is proud to announce the publication of the first two volumes in a new series of Occasional Papers . These are being published as downloadable PDF files which are available in the 'Resources ' of this website. As will be seen, the texts are in quarto format, and it is hoped that those who wish to have copies of them will obtain these by printing them out for themselves. However, a limited edition of printed and bound copies is also being produced for deposit in selected libraries, and the Occasional Papers have therefore been registered as print publications with ISBN numbers. The first two titles are as follows:

  1. Robert Boyle's 'Heads' and 'Inquiries' , edited by Michael Hunter. ISBN 0-9551608-0-4 (10 digits); 978-0-9551608-0-6 (13 digits); xvi + 37 pp.; 1 illustration.
  2. Unpublished Material relating to Robert Boyle's 'Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood', edited by Michael Hunter and Harriet Knight. ISBN 0-9551608-1-2 (10 digits); 978-0-9551608-1-3 (13 digits); xv + 50 pp.; 1 illustration.

More details about both publications are given in the Resources area. To access these items and download your own copies of them, click here. It is hoped that further volumes in the series will be published over the next few years.

The Boyle Correspondence: Some Unnoticed Items

By Noel Malcolm

We are delighted to make available an article by Noel Malcolm of All Souls College, Oxford, in which he publishes for the first time a hitherto unknown letter dated 22 May 1669 from Boyle to an Oxford academic (possibly John Fell) and draws attention to information about the content of lost letters which eluded the editors of The Correspondence of Robert Boyle. Because of its length, this has been provided here as a PDF file which readers may download.

The editors of On the Boyle hope that all who come across hitherto unknown Boyle letters, or information about letters that are now lost, will communicate such material so that a file of it can be built up and published on the Boyle website. If you have any such information, please send it to or Any corrigenda to either the Correspondence or the Works of Boyle would also be gratefully received.

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader®, you can download it by clicking here: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader icon

Robert Boyle for the 21st Century

Readers may be interested to have a report on the activities of the project, 'Robert Boyle for the 21st Century', which was in progress when On the Boyle , no. 6, was published, and which has since been brought to a successful conclusion. This project, in which the partners were Birkbeck (University of London), the Royal Society, and Access to Archives, was funded by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund; the research officer on the project was Stella Wong. The Project's main achievements since the launch of the redesigned Boyle website of which the issue of On the Boyle , no. 6, formed part, have been as follows:

  • The educational materials on Boyle and his milieu in the 'Teachers' area' of the website were completed, thanks mainly to the assiduous work of Dr Fiona Kisby, and have been promoted through web directories of teaching resources. Any assistance in giving them wider publicity would be greatly appreciated.
  • A section has been added to the Boyle website entitled 'View Boyle manuscripts online', which comprises colour facsimiles of the entire content of the core volumes of the Boyle Papers (BP 2, 8, 9, 10, 17, 18, 25, 26, 28, 36 and 38). These are accessed through an index page which list the documents in each volume, and they are accompanied by descriptions of the material in question. If you have not already looked at this, you are urged to do so now.
  • The updated and fully-illustrated edition of Boyle's workdiaries produced in collaboration with Alison Wiggins and Jan Broadway of the AHRC Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London, has been available on the Centre's website ( since late 2004.
  • The completely revised catalogue of the Boyle Papers, Letters and associated manuscripts was completed and has since been published on the Royal Society website ( /library). It is also available on the website of Access to Archives ( In addition, a volume entitled The Boyle Papers: Understanding the Manuscripts of Robert Boyle, comprising a hard copy version of the revised catalogue together with ancillary studies of the archive by Michael Hunter, in collaboration with Edward B.Davis, Harriet Knight, Charles Littleton and Lawrence M.Principe, will be published by Ashgate in 2006 (ISBN 0 7546 5568 7).

The Natural Philosophy of Robert Boyle

University of Bordeaux III, 10-12 March 2005

In March 2005 Professor Charles Ramond and Myriam Dennehy convened an international colloquium on 'The Natural Philosophy of Robert Boyle' at the University of Bordeaux III . The proceedings of this meeting will be published by Vrin, Paris. The program of the colloquium is below. For further details, see .

Thursday 10 March 2005

  • François DUCHESNEAU (Montréal)
    Teleology and mechanical explanation according to Boyle
  • Bernard JOLY (Lille 3)
    The Cartesianism of Boyle
  • Michel MALHERBE (Nantes)
    Bacon, Boyle and the experimental philosophy
  • Catherine WILSON (British Columbia , Vancouver)
    Becoming a natural philosopher: motives and temptations of the young Boyle
  • Philippe HAMOU (Paris 10 Nanterre)
    Robert Boyle and the value of science
  • Luc PETERSCHMITT (Lille 3)
    Boyle and contingent experience
  • Michael HUNTER (Birkbeck, London)
    Robert Boyle and the Supernatural

Friday 11 March 2005

  • Geneviève BRYKMAN (Paris 10 Nanterre)
    The notion of prime matter according to Boyle, Locke and Berkeley
  • Cedric BRUN (Bordeaux 3)
    The role of the corpuscular hypothesis in the Lockean distinction between primary and secondary qualities
  • Jean TERREL (Bordeaux 3)
    Hobbes and Boyle
  • Antonio CLERICUZIO (Cassino)
    The corpuscular philosophy of Robert Boyle in its European context
  • Evelyne GUILLEMEAU (Nantes) et Charles RAMOND
    Experiment and experimental methodology according to Boyle and Spinoza
  • Fabien CHAREIX (Paris 4 Sorbonne)
    Christiaan Huygens: reader of Robert Boyle
  • Myriam DENNEHY (Paris 4 Sorbonne)
    Boyle, Leibniz, Sturm
  • Harriet KNIGHT (Queen Mary, London)
    Robert Boyle and the organization of knowledge

Saturday 12 March 2005

  • Lawrence PRINCIPE (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore)
    The alchemy/chymistry of Boyle: the reception of Boyle's chymistry in France (with special reference to the chymists of the Académie Royale des Sciences before 1700)
  • Hiro HIRAI (Liège) and Hideyuki YOSHIMOTO (Tokyo)
    Anatomizing the Sceptical Chymist: Robert Boyle's Early Sources
  • Rémi FRANCKOWIACK (Lille 3)
    Boyle and Du Clos
  • Peter ANSTEY (Sydney)
    Boyle and Mariotte on the spring of the air

Publications on Boyle since ‘on the Boyle’ no. 6 (June 2004)

  • Alexander, Peter, 'Boyle, Robert', in Thomas Duddy (ed.), Dictionary of Irish Philosophers (Bristol : Thoemmes Continuum, 2004), 30-6
  • 'How could a Respectable Seventeenth-century Empiricist be Influenced by Robert Boyle?', Locke Studies, 5 (2005), 103-17
  • Allen, John, Robert Boyle: Father of Chemistry ('Giants of Science' series) (San Diego : Blackbirch, 2005)
  • Ben-Chaim, Michael, Experimental Knowledge and the Birth of Empirical Science: Boyle, Locke and Newton (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004)
  • Burns, D. Thorburn, 'Robert Boyle's Knowledge of Spain and his Citations of Spanish Authors', Microchimica Acta , 149 (3-4) (2005), 165-173.
  • Davis, Edward B., 'Boyle, Robert', in Carl Mitcham et al. (eds), Encyclopaedia of Science, Technology and Ethics (4 vols., New York: MacMillan Library Reference, 2005), vol. 1, 242-5
  • Eaton, William R., Boyle on Fire: The Mechanical Revolution in Scientific Explanation (London / New York : Continuum, 2005).
  • Goldie, Mark, 'Distribution Lists for Copies of Locke's Books and Boyle's General History of the Air ', Locke Studies , 4 (2004), 235-42
  • Hirai, Hiro, and Yoshimoto, Hideyuki, 'Anatomizing the Sceptical Chymist: Robert Boyle and the Secret of his Early Sources on the Growth of Metals', Early Science and Medicine, 10 (2005), 453-77
  • Hunter, Michael, 'Boyle, Robert (1627-91)', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (56 vols., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), vol. 7, 100-8; also available in online form
  • 'Robert Boyle, Narcissus Marsh and the Anglo-Irish Intellectual Scene in the late Seventeenth Century', in Muriel McCarthy and Ann Simmons (eds.), The Making of Marsh's Library: Learning, Politics and Religion in Ireland 1650-1750 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004), 51-75
  • 'Robert Boyle for the 21st Century', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 59 (2005), 87-90
  • Hunter, Michael, and Money, David, 'Robert Boyle's First Encomium: Two Latin Poems by Samuel Collins (1647)', The Seventeenth Century , 20 (2005), 223-41
  • Jones, Jan-Erik, 'Boyle, Classification and the Workmanship of the Understanding Thesis', Journal of the History of Philosophy , 43 (2005), 171-83
  • Knight, Harriet, 'Rearranging Seventeenth-century Natural History into Natural Philosophy: Eighteenth-century Editions of Boyle's Works', in Matthew Eddy and David Knight (eds), Science and Beliefs: From Natural Philosophy to Natural Science, 1700-1900 (Aldershot : Ashgate, 2005), 31-42
  • Little, Patrick, Lord Broghill and the Cromwellian Union with Ireland and Scotland, Irish Historical Monographs (Woodbridge : Boydell Press, 2004)
  • Littleton, Charles, 'Ancient Languages and New Science: the Levant in the Intellectual Life of Robert Boyle', in Alastair Hamilton, Maurits van den Boogert and Bart Westerweel (eds), The Republic of Letters and the Levant , Intersections series (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 152-71
  • Malcolm, Noel, ' Robert Boyle, Georges Pierre des Clozets, and the Asterism: a New Source', Early Science and Medicine , 9 (2004), 293-306.
  • Meynell, Guy, 'Anomalies in Locke's Index to Boyle's Sceptical Chymist (1661)', Locke Studies , 4 (2004), 223-33
  • Newman, William R. and Principe, Lawrence M. (eds.), George Starkey, Alchemical Laboratory Notebooks and Correspondence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004)
  • Pasnau, Robert, 'Form, Substance, and Mechanism', Philosophical Review , 113 (2004), 31-88.
  • Principe, Lawrence M., ' A Lost Newton Manuscript Recovered at CHF: Robert Boyle's Recipe for Transmutation', Chemical Heritage, 22, no. 4 (Winter 2004/5), 6-7.
  • 'Georges Pierre Des Clozets, Robert Boyle, the Alchemical Patriarch of Antioch , And the Reunion of Christendom: Further New Sources', Early Science and Medicine , 9 (2004), 307-320.
  • Taylor, Gary, Buying Whiteness: Race, Culture and Identity from Columbus to Hip-hop ( New York : Palgrave, 2005), ch. 10
  • West, John B., 'Robert Boyle's Landmark Book of 1660 with the First Experiments on Rarified Air', Journal of Applied Physiology , 98 (2005), 31-9
  • Yoshimoto, Hideyuki, 'The Natural Historical Background to Robert Boyle's Thought', Area and Culture Studies (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies), 67 (2004), 85-105 [in Japanese]
  • 'Reading, Citing and Writing of Robert Boyle: An Analysis of Boyle's Marginalia', Area and Culture Studies (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies), 68 (2004),129-51 [in Japanese]
  • 'Concepts of Fermentation in Starkey, Boyle and Newton , in Kosuge Hayato (ed.), Corruption and Regeneration (Tokyo: University Press of Keio Gijuku, 2004), 115-34 [in Japanese]
  • Zaterka, Luciana, A Filosofia Experimental na Inglaterra do Século XVII: Francis Bacon e Robert Boyle (Sao Paolo: Associaçao Editorial Humanitas, 2004)