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Robert Boyle

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Caption: Robert Boyle

Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was an English natural philosopher and one of the founders of modern chemistry. He was instrumental in the founding of the Royal Society, a British organization dedicated to the advancement of the sciences; Boyle was also a pioneer in the use of experiments and the scientific method to test his ideas. Boyle is best remembered for Boyle's law, a physical law that explains how the pressure and volume of a gas are related.

Early Life

Boyle was born on January 25, 1627 to a Protestant family in Lismore, Ireland. He was the youngest of fourteen children. His father was Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork. Richard came to Ireland from England in 1588 at the age of 22. He was appointed clerk of the council of Munster by Elizabeth I in 1600. At one point he was imprisoned for embezzlement and theft, but he managed to receive a royal pardon, and went on to accumulate a huge fortune and advance his social standing and political influence. He was a very successful man and Robert grew up in a very noble and high-class life. Robert’s mother, Catherine Fenton, was Richard’s second wife, his first having died within a year of the birth of their first child. When Richard married the well connected Fenton she was 15 and he was 37. Richard was in his 60’s and Catherine in her 40’s when Robert was born


Much of his research dealt with the behavior of gases including the earth's atmosphere. By careful experiments, he established Boyle's law. Boyle's law states that the volume of a given amount of gas varies inversely with its pressure, if temperature is constant. This means that at a constant temperature, the pressure of a gas will increase as the volume of the gas is decreased, and vice versa. Boyle determined the density of air in the earth's atmosphere and pointed out that the weight of objects varies with changes in atmospheric pressure. He compared the lower layers of the earth's atmosphere to a number of sponges or small springs that the weight of the layers above compresses. In 1660 Boyle published these findings in a book entitled The Spring of Air. Boyle accomplished much important work in physics. He studied the behavior of gases, the role of air in allowing sound to travel, and the outward force of water in the process of freezing. He was also interested in the ability of crystals to bend light, the density of liquids, electricity, color, and the behavior of liquids at rest, among other physical topics. Boyle's greatest fondness was researching in chemistry. He was the main agent in changing the unscientific field of alchemy, which was mostly concerned with turning common metals into precious metals, into modern scientific chemistry. He was the first person to work toward removing the mystique around chemistry and to change it into a pure science. He questioned the basis of the chemical theory of his day and taught that chemistry's purpose was to determine the compositions of substances. After his death, his natural history collections passed as a bequest to the Royal Society.

Boyle's Law

main article: Boyle's law


Lesson: 133
Unit: 4
State Content Standard: 4c

Lesson Title: Boyle's Law
Textbook Page: Pages 403-407, 415, 435
Chemistry Passport: Page 147

1. Understand the relationship between pressure and volume.
2. Complete calculations involving this law.

Lesson Content

In Boyle's law, there is a pressure to volume relationship. Specifically, there is an inverse relationship between the pressure and volume of a gas with a fixed mass. According to this gas law, volume increases as pressure decreases and volume decreases as pressure increases.<ref>http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/boyle.html</ref>

Boyle's law can be represented by the following equation: P1V1=P2V2
(Only for identical masses of gas at constant temperature.)<ref>Zumdahl, Steven S., Susan L. Zumdahl, and Donald J. DeCoste. World of Chemistry. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. Print.</ref>

To Solve Calculations...

1. List.


2. Plug it in.


3. Does your answer make sense? (Remember to check your units!)


Example Problems

1. Under what circumstance might a gas decrease in volume when heated?

A. The gas is held constant at STP.
B. The gas remains under uniform temperature.
C. The gas is placed under increasing pressure.
D. The gas undergoes a decrease in pressure.

2. If the volume of a gas-filled container increases, what happens to the pressure?

The pressure decreases.

3. If the air pressure in a room drops but the temperature remains constant, what happens to a filled balloon?

The balloon expands. (Its volume increases.)

4. A gas occupies 12.3 L at a pressure of 40.0 mm Hg. What is the volume when the pressure is increased to 60.0 mm Hg?

(40.0 mm Hg)(12.3 L)=(60.0 mm Hg)(x) --> x=8.20 L

5. If a gas at 25.0°C occupies 3.60 L at a pressure of 1.00 atm, what will be its volume at a pressure of 2.50 atm?

(1.00 atm)(3.60 L)=(2.50 atm)(x) --> x=1.44 L

State Released Test Question

The volume of 400 mL of chlorine gas at 400 mm Hg is decreased to 200 mL at constant temperature. What is the new gas pressure?

A. 400 mm Hg
B. 300 mm Hg
C. 800 mm Hg
D. 650 mm Hg

How to Solve the Calculation:

1. List.

P1=400 mm Hg
V1=400 mL
V2=200 mL

2. Plug it in.

(400 mm Hg)(400 mL)=(x)(200 mL)
x=800 mm Hg

3. Does your answer make sense? (Remember to check your units!)

The pressure was doubled, while the volume was halved.


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