History buffs might remember Robert Boyle as the scientist who gave his name to Boyle’s law—a natural law that sets out the connection between pressure and volume in gases. His momentous discovery laid the basis for countless scientific developments that followed. But Robert Boyle was more than an able man of science. He is also considered to have been a man of great faith in God and His inspired Word, the Bible.
BOYLE was born into a wealthy family at Lismore Castle, in Ireland, in 1627. That was near the beginning of what historians call the age of reason—a time when thinking men tried to free mankind from the fanaticisms that had enslaved the human race for centuries. Boyle shared that goal. In an autobiography of his early years, he gave himself the name Philaretus, meaning “Lover of Virtue.”
Boyle’s desire to learn the truth was matched by an equally intense desire to share everything he learned with others. He became a prolific writer, whose writings had a profound effect on many of his contemporaries, including the famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton. In 1660, Boyle became one of the founders of the Royal Society, a scientific institution that still exists in London, England.
A MAN OF SCIENCE
Boyle has been described as the father of chemistry. He took a completely different approach from that of the alchemists of his day. They kept their findings secret or else wrote them in obscure terms that few people outside their closed circle could understand. In contrast, Boyle openly published all the details of his work. Further, instead of simply accepting long-held hypotheses, he championed the use of controlled experiments to establish the facts.
Boyle’s experiments supported the idea that matter was composed of what he called corpuscles, particles of some kind, that combined in different ways to form different substances.
Boyle’s approach to scientific research is summed up well in his famous book The Sceptical Chymist. There he recommends that scientists avoid being arrogant or dogmatic and be willing to admit mistakes. Boyle insisted that those with strong opinions should carefully distinguish between the things they knew to be true and the things they thought to be true.
Boyle insisted that those with strong opinions should carefully distinguish between the things they knew to be true and those they thought to be true
A MAN OF FAITH
Boyle took the same approach when it came to spiritual matters. What he discovered about the universe and the marvelous construction of living creatures convinced him that there must be a Designer and Creator. So he rejected the growing spirit of atheism among the intelligentsia of his day. No one who used his power of reason honestly, Boyle concluded, could fail to believe in God.
However, Boyle did not think that human reason alone was the way to true enlightenment. He saw the need for some kind of revelation from God. That revelation, he said, was God’s Word, the Bible.
Boyle was troubled to see that many were unfamiliar with Bible teachings and seemed to have no solid foundation for their religious beliefs. How can it be right, he asked, that a person’s religious beliefs be based solely on what his parents believed or on where he happened to be born? Boyle developed an intense desire to help people deepen their knowledge of the Bible.
To this end, Boyle gave money to support the publishing of the Bible in many languages. These included some of the languages of native North Americans, as well as Arabic, Irish, Malay, and Turkish. Robert Boyle thus proved himself to be a gifted yet humble man with an insatiable desire to find the truth in all matters and to help others do the same.