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Robert Boyle from his writing (1627-1691): Uncelebrated Irish Genius, Polymath, Eccentric, and Cork’s Gas Man by Jim Malone

February 27 @ 11:00 - 13:00

Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is known as the father of chemistry and the son of the Earl of Cork. However, he was much more – a determined, undercelebrated, brilliant scientist and eccentric. He was born in Lismore Castle in Waterford and lived through the English Civil War, regicide, interregnum, restoration, and died just months after the Battle of the Boyne. He was among the last of the universal polymaths, and contributed substantially to medicine, physics, the life sciences, philosophy, and theology.  He was a founder member of the Royal Society and refused numerous honours including its presidency. He accumulated a vast range of cures and even wrote a short semi-autobiographical novella. Finally, he established the experimental method as we now know it.

He was deeply religious, lived an exemplary if somewhat stoic Anglican life. He funded the first translation of the Bible into Irish. Like Newton he was fascinated by alchemy and sorcery. His science and his personal spirituality are inextricably intertwined.

Jim started reading Boyle’s copious original writings in the early printed books room of the TCD library almost 50 years ago. They are informative about 17th century science and life, and rich in unintended humour. The talk is based on these writings and a comparison of what one learns from them with what one would learn from a twenty first century scientist’s writing. Boyle’s opus brings the man to life and Jim now seems to know him better than many of those he meets regularly. Visual art is used to illustrate the talk.

Jim Malone is Robert Boyle Professor (Emeritus) of Medical Physics and was (first non-medical) Dean of the School of Medicine. A member of the Executive Committee of TRA, he helps convene the Writing Group and Book Club. He works regularly with various UN and EU organisations, including WHO, the IAEA. He has been reading Boyle’s work in its original format for almost 50 years, and a broad interest in the humanities includes direction of two Merriman Summer Schools.

He has numerous publications in the scientific and medical literature but is particularly proud of a recent almost true memoir: Tales from the Ivory Tower, published by Liffey Press.

This talk will be in person and also on zoom.

Booking opens on the 11th Feb. at 9.00am and closes on 25th Feb. at 11.30pm




February 27
11:00 - 13:00
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Trinity Retirement Association is a voluntary association of retired staff members from Trinity College Dublin and permission to use the Trinity logotype has been given by the Secretary to the College