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Early Stuart Portraits Catalogue

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), Chemist and natural philosopher

Natural philosopher; b. Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford, Ireland; 7th s. of the first Earl of Cork (and bro. of the first earl of Burlington, q.v.); Eton 1635-38, continental tour 1639-44, principally in Geneva; Netherlands 1648; in 1650 he set up a laboratory in his house at Stalbridge in Dorset; in Ireland 1652-54; moved to Oxford 1655/56, joining the group of natural philosophers grouped round John Wilkins (later Bishop of Chester); foundation member of the Royal Society, but consistently refused the Presidency; devised Boyle’s Law (the relationship between the volume and pressure of gases) and the air pump (vacuum chamber); governor of the New England Company for the propagation of the gospel 1661-89; from 1668 lived in London with his sister, Katherine, Viscountess Ranelagh; a deeply pious man, his extensive writings cover medicine and ethics, beside experimental natural philosophy; bequeathed his mineralogical collections to the Royal Society.

‘He is very tall (about six feet high) and streight, very temperate, and vertuose, and frugall: a batcheler’ (Aubrey)

‘He was rather tall & slender of stature than otherwise; for the most part valetudiniary, pale & much emaciated; nor unlike his picture in the R. Society; which, with an almost impudent importunity was hardly extorted, or rather stolen, from Sr Edmond King: after he had refused it to his nearest relations’ (Evelyn, 23 March 1696; R. E. W. Maddison, ‘The Portraiture of Robert Boyle’, Annals of Science, XV, 1962, p 164: Boyle Add MS 4229 f.59r).

This extended catalogue entry is by John Ingamells, one of a limited number of entries drafted in 2010 for the incomplete catalogue, Early Stuart Portraits 1625-1685, and is as written then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.