On the Boyle
A newsletter of work in progress on Robert Boyle (1627-91)
No. 8: December 2007

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, who has now moved to the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Michael Hunter, University of London. Like its predecessors, On the Boyle, nos. 6 (June 2004) and 7 (November 2005), 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 nos. 6 and 7, see this section of the website).

In its online format, On the Boyle mainly comprises a set of announcements, including news of work in progress on Boyle and a list of recent publications on him. However, as in 2005, it draws attention to a new Occasional Paper of the Robert Boyle Project, which can be downloaded in PDF form: for details, see 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 - Dec 2007

Peter Anstey ( hand Michael Hunter have completed a study of Boyle's 'Designe about Natural History' as described in his letter to Henry Oldenburg of 13 June 1666 and ancillary manuscripts, which will appear in Early Science and Medicine early in 2008. To accompany this, they have produced a new Occasional Paper of the Robert Boyle Project which reproduces the relevant sources for Boyle's 'Designe': for details, see the announcement below.

Iordan Avramov ( is making a study of Boyle's reading and citation practices in conjunction with Michael Hunter and Hideyuki Yoshimoto ( This is based partly on Boyle's citations in his published works and partly on those in his workdiaries and reading notes; it focuses on books which Boyle cited with exact page numbers, sometimes stating that the copy in question was his own. It is hoped to publish an inventory of these as an Occasional Paper of the Robert Boyle Project entitled Boyle's Books.

The proceedings of the Bordeaux conference on 'La Philosophie Naturelle de Robert Boyle', March 2005 (see OTB 7) will be published by Vrin as a book edited by Myriam Dennehy and Charles Ramond. This is due to appear early in 2008.

The Boyle Papers is a volume by Michael Hunter with contributions by Edward B. Davis, Harriet Knight, Charles Littleton and Lawrence M. Principe, which also owes a great deal to Joanna Corden, Stella Wong and others who helped to produce the revised version of the catalogue of the Boyle archive which is at its core. The catalogue is also available on the Royal Society website ( and through Access to Archives ( In addition to the catalogue, the volume includes papers on facets of the archive by the authors listed above, often in slightly updated and revised form. It is a handsome volume thanks to the attention of Ashgate, who published it in March 2007

Kleber Cecon ( is writing a PhD thesis on Boyle's chemical experiments at the University of Campinas, Brazil. He is currently spending a year in London, where he is affiliated with Birkbeck College.

Antonio Clericuzio ( gave a talk on Boyle's experimental philosophy at the Fundacion Canaria Orotava de Historia de la Ciencia, Teneriffe, in September 2006. The text is available at

Michael Hunter ( has written an update on recent developments in Boyle studies for the New Dictionary of Scientific Biography, which has just been published by Scribners. He has also completed a draft of his biography of Boyle, which is currently being read by his publishers, Yale University Press. He will prepare a revised version of this over the next few months, and it should be published in the spring of 2009.

At Lismore, co. Waterford (, the Robert Boyle Science Room is proving popular with Irish students and was nominated as a centre of scientific excellence by Forfas, the Irish government science agency.

Jack MacIntosh( has given talks on aspects of Boyle's thought at Toronto in 2006, in Dubrovnik in April 2007 and at Saskatoon in May and October 2007. His Boyle on Atheism was published by University of Toronto Press in 2006 and his The Excellencies of Robert Boyle will be published by the Broadview Press early in 2008. He is now working on a book with the working title, The Philosophical Views of Robert Boyle.

Tina Malcolmson( is writing a book on Race and Gender in the Early Royal Society for Ashgate which argues that Boyle supported monogenesis while others in the Society were developing polygenetic views. She is also writing an article (with Michael Hunter and Ruth Paley of History of Parliament) on draft parliamentary acts on slavery in the Boyle Papers.

Helen Mallinson ( is writing a PhD thesis at the London Consortium on 'Robert Boyle and the gnat experiment', which re-examines Boyle's pneumatic ideas in the context of his religious preoccupations.

The revised edition of Boyle's Workdiaries, which has been on the website of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters since 2004 (, has recently been upgraded by the introduction of a revised interface offering more intuitive and informative navigation and zoomable images. The support problems relating to certain browsers have also been rectified.

In Memoriam Jan W. Wojcik

Jan Wojcik died in France on 1 July 2006. She will be especially remembered by Boyle scholars for her Robert Boyle and the Limits of Reason, published by Cambridge University Press in 1997, an important book which presented a searching view of Boyle's voluntarism, its theological background and its implications for his thought as a whole. Both before and after this, she wrote a number of papers on related aspects of Boyle's thought, and her work on Boyle itself formed part of a wonderful mid-life development in her career, as she became established as a scholar and gained tenure at Auburn University. Subsequently she took on the role of book review editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy and played an active role in the academic world through conferences and other activities.

Jan was a charming and unassuming person with real warmth. As well as becoming a significant exponent of the emanations of seventeenth-century British culture through her scholarly work, she also developed a fondness for the British climate and the British way of life, coming to enjoy using stout walking shoes to get around London, and taking pleasure in such aspects of the country's ecology as late flowering roses on the channel coast. She was also very hospitable to those who visited her while she was at Auburn. She will be sadly missed.

Boyle's School, Yetminster, and the sale of its copy of Johann Kerseboom's portrait of Boyle

Various charitable foundations resulted from the distribution of Boyle's estate in the generation after his death, among them the establishment of a school at Yetminster in Dorset. This was the initiative of John Warr, one of Boyle's chief amanuenses and assistants in his later years and one of his executors after his death, who evidently hailed from the Yetminster area. After various delays, the school was finally opened in 1710 or 17111. It remained in operation until the mid twentieth century, when it was closed under the provisions of the 1944 Education Act. Instead a Boyle's Educational Foundation was established in 1955 with responsibility for distributing the remaining funds for the benefit of young people in Yetminster and two neighbouring parishes, Leigh and Chetnole.

The Foundation owns the former school at Yetminster, an attractive stone building on the village street evidently dating from the time of its foundation, which was extended at a later date when an ancillary building was erected; there is also an adjacent schoolyard. A recent photograph of the school appears as an illustration to this article. At one time, the school contained two paintings. One of these was a view of Stalbridge House which was photographed at the behest of the late Dr R.E.W. Maddison in 1957 and published by him in 1963; however, it was in very poor condition when it was photographed, and it does not appear to survive2. The other is one of the versions of Johann Kerseboom's portrait of Boyle, of which at least six other examples survive, including the 'Shannon' copy of which details appeared in On the Boyle 4 (2001), when it was in the hands of Historical Portraits, London, and which is now owned by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia. Other copies survive at the Royal Society, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Collection, Bolton Abbey and the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. The versions of the portrait can be divided into two types, one showing a scarf with one end only, the other with two ends, and the Yetminster copy is an example of the latter3.

For many years this painting has been in store at Dorset county museum at Dorchester, but the Trustees of Boyle's Educational Foundation decided earlier this year that this was a waste of a valuable asset. They therefore called in Christie's of London, and the painting appeared in the auction of Old Master and British Paintings at Christie's King Street rooms on Friday, 7 December. It was sold to a bidder who has not yet been identified, but it is hoped that it will now be more easily accessible than was the case when it was in store. The Trustees plan to use the proceeds of the sale to renovate the existing properties and perhaps to construct two further cottages on the former schoolyard. The result will be to provide the Foundation with an income which can be distributed for the charitable purposes for which it was set up.

For further information, visit the Boyle's Educational Foundation website, or contact

  1. R.E.W. Maddison, 'Studies in the Life of Robert Boyle, FRS, Part III: The Charitable Disposal of Robert Boyle's Residual Estate', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 10 (1952), 15-27, on pp. 23-5, reprinted in slightly abbreviated form in his Life of the Hon. Robert Boyle (London, 1969), pp. 216-18.
  2. R.E.W. Maddison, 'Studies in the Life of Robert Boyle, FRS, Part VI: The Stalbridge Period, 1645-55, and the Invisible College', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 18 (1963), 104-24, plate 17 (facing p. 104). The information about the condition of the painting was given to Dr Maddison in a letter dated 14 April 1957 from his son, Dr F.R. Maddison, former Curator of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, who took the photograph: this is now among the papers of Dr Maddison sr. at the University of Kent.
  3. R.E.W. Maddison,'The Portraiture of the Hon. Robert Boyle', Annals of Science, 15 (1959), 141-214, on pp. 159-71. See also Lawrence M. Principe, 'Robert Boyle's Portrait at CHF', Chemical Heritage, 20, 2 (2002), 8-9.

Return to text

Occasional papers of the Robert Boyle Project

The first two volumes in this series were published in both online and printed form in 2005. Now, a third volume has been published, details of which and of the first two are available on the Occasional Papers area of the website. No. 3 of the series is as follows:

Michael Hunter and Peter Anstey (eds.), The Text of Robert Boyle's 'Designe about Natural History'. ISBN 978-0-9551608-2-0

As with the previous two, this provides documentation which is both significant in its own right and also provides the background for an article on a related topic. The articles relating to Occasional Papers 1 and 2 were published early in 2007 (See 'Publications on Boyle since OTB 7' s.v. Hunter, Michael, and Knight, Harriet). The article to which the new Occasional Paper relates will appear in Early Science and Medicine early in 2008.

A fourth Occasional Paper is currently in preparation. This will be entitled Boyle's Books and will be the work of Iordan Avramov, Michael Hunter and Hideyuki Yoshimoto. It will differ from the previous titles in not being an edition of texts but a reference work tabulating Boyle's citations as a clue to his book ownership. For details, see the entry under Iordan Avramov in 'Boyle News'.

Online Boyle books

A large number of early editions of Boyle's books, both in English and Latin, are available through Early English Books Online, a subscription service available from ProQuest in the United States and Chadwyck Healey in Britain. Among these, many have been transcribed by the Text Creation Partnership and are therefore searchable.

In addition, InteLex have made available a digitised version of Boyle's Works and Correspondence (to which Robert Boyle by Himself and his Friends is annexed): the former forms part of InteLex's 'Past Masters' series and the latter its '1000 Years of English Letters'. For details, see the links under the Works and Correspondence pages.

Free resources include the following:

The Sceptical Chymist (1661)

Experiments and Considerations touching Colours (1664)

An Essay about the Origin and Virtues of Gems (1672)

An Historical Account of the Degradation of Gold by an Anti-Elixir (1678)

For a set of annotations to The Sceptical Chymist (1661) which is available online, see

Any information about further existing or intended online Boyle resources or editions should be notified to or

Publications on Boyle since 'on the Boyle' no. 7 (November 2005)

  • Anstey, Peter, 'Literary Responses to Boyle's Natural Philosophy' in J. Cummins and D. Burchell (eds), Science, Literature and Rhetoric in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 145–62
  • Brown, Stuart, 'Leibniz and Robert Boyle: Reason and Faith: Rationalism and Voluntarism' in Pauline Phemister and Stuart Brown (eds), Leibniz and the English-speaking World (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), pp. 83–93
  • Clericuzio, Antonio, 'El Relojero Ajetreado: Dios y el Mundo Natural en el Pensiamiento de Boyle', in J.Montesinos and S. Toledo (eds.), Ciencia y Religión en la Edad Moderna (La Orotava: Fundación Canaria Orotava de Historia de la Ciencia, 2007), pp. 69-93
  • Davis, Edward B., 'Robert Boyle's Religious Life, Attitudes and Vocation', Science and Christian Belief, 19 (2007), 117-38
  • Duffy, Simon, 'The Difference between Science and Philosophy: the Spinoza-Boyle Controversy Revisited', Paragraph, 29, no. 2 (July 2006), 115-38
  • Goodney, D. E. 'Acid-base Chemistry according to Robert Boyle: Chemical Reactions in Words as well as Symbols', Journal of Chemical Education, 83 (7) (2006), 1001–2
  • Harrison, Peter, 'Physico-Theology and the Mixed Sciences: the Role of Theology in Early Modern Natural Philosophy', in Peter R. Anstey and John A. Schuster (eds), The Science of Nature in the Seventeenth Century: Patterns of Change in Early Modern Natural Philosophy (Dordrecht: Springer, 2005), pp. 165-83
  • Holden, Thomas, 'Robert Boyle on Things above Reason', British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 15 (2007), 283-312
  • Hunter, Michael, 'Robert Boyle and the Early Royal Society: a Reciprocal Exchange in the Making of Baconian Science', British Journal for the History of Science, 40 (2007), 1-23
  • Hunter, Michael, 'Boyle, Robert', in Noretta Koertge (ed.), New Dictionary of Scientific Biography (8 vols., Farmington Hills: Scribner, 2008), vol. 1, pp. 366-70.
  • Hunter, Michael, with contributions by Edward B. Davis, Harriet Knight, Charles Littleton and Lawrence M. Principe, The Boyle Papers: Understanding the Manuscripts of Robert Boyle (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007)
  • Jacob, Margaret C., Strangers Nowhere in the World: the Origins of Early Modern Cosmopolitanism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), ch. 2
  • Jones. J-E., 'Locke vs. Boyle: the Real Essence of Corpuscular Species', British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 15 (2007), 659-84
  • Kahr, Bart, Chittenden, Brianne, and Rohl, Andrew, 'Robert Boyle's Chiral Chrystal Chemistry: Computational Re-evaluation of Enantioselective Absorption on Quartz', Chirality, 18 (2) (2006), 127–33
  • Kaufman, Dan, 'Locks, Schlocks and Poisoned Peas: Boyle on Actual and Dispositive Qualities', in Daniel Garber and Steven Nadler (eds.), Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, vol. 3 (Oxford, 2006), pp. 153-98
  • Knight, Harriet, and Hunter, Michael, 'Robert Boyle's Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood: Print, Manuscript and the Impact of Baconianism in Seventeenth-century Medical Science', Medical History, 51 (2007), 145-64
  • Lambour, Ruud, 'De Alchemistische Wereld van Galenus Abrahamz (1622-1706)', Doopsgezinde Bijdragen, 31 (2005), 93-168
  • Larner, A. J., 'A Possible Account of Synaesthesia dating from the Seventeenth century', Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 15 (3) (2006), 245–249
  • MacIntosh, J.J., Boyle on Atheism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005)
  • MacIntosh, J. J., 'Boyle and Locke on Observation, Testimony, Demonstration and Experience', Croatian Journal of Philosophy, 5 (2005), 275–288
  • Malcolm, Noel, 'Comenius, Boyle, Oldenburg, and the Translation of the Bible into Turkish', Church History and Religious Culture, 87 (2007), 327-62
  • Newman, William R., Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006)
  • Osler, Margaret J., 'The Gender of Nature and the Nature of Gender in Early Modern Natural Philosophy', in Judith P. Zinsser (ed.), Men, Women and the Birthing of Modern Science (DeKalb, Illinois: North Illinois University Press, 2005), pp. 71-85
  • Rengachary, S. S. and Ashan, Sidra, 'Sir [sic] Robert Boyle and his Unique Case Report on Depressed Cranial Fracture', Neurosurgery, 61 (2007), 633–40
  • Shaw, Jane, Miracles in Enlightenment England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), ch. 4
  • Shklar, Gerald, 'Chemist Robert Boyle and his Interest in Oral Health', Journal of the History of Dentistry, 54(1) (2006), 10–15
  • Taylor, Betsey Fitzsimon, 'Conversion, the Bible and the Irish Language: the Correspondence of Lady Ranelagh and Bishop Dopping', in Michael Brown, Charles I. McGrath and Thomas P. Power (eds.), Converts and Conversion in Ireland, 1650-1850 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005), pp. 157-82