Christians in Science: Robert Boyle
- Thursday, April 01, 2004
Through experimentation, Boyle discovered the element phosphorus and some rather interesting properties. First, it glowed in the dark. Second, when heated with friction it would catch on fire. He soaked a piece of paper in a phosphorus solution and dipped a splinter of wood in sulfur. When he rubbed the stick across the paper it burst into flames creating the world's first match!
Robert wrote a book called "The Skeptical Chemist" that recorded his experiments in an easy to understand format. He never tried to impress or dazzle people with overly technical or hard to understand language. He was interested in providing people with information they could use, study and learn from.
Robert Boyle: The Christian
There are a couple of different accounts of Boyle becoming a Christian. One says that at the age of 13, Robert was awakened by a loud thunderstorm. The storm frightened him tremendously. It was then that he dedicated his life to serving Christ. A second account says that while witnessing a lightning storm he realized the awesome power of God, and understood and accepted Him. The result from either account was that from then forward he used his time, talents and treasures for the next 50 years to walk the Christian walk.
Boyle believed that the universe was well ordered and illustrated God's design. Further, he believed that it was part of his Christian service to work and seek God's purpose in science and nature. To Robert, the universe worked like a great clock set into motion by the Great Designer. It is said that after reading one of Boyle's books a friend noted, "You make the study of nature seem so simple." To this he replied, "God would not have made the universe as it is unless He intended us to understand it."
Boyle was said to be very humble. When he performed good works for others he tried to hide so others did not know it had been him. After the great fire of London in 1666, Boyle worked to make sure the victims received food, clothing and shelter. Few knew that it was him who had helped.
Robert supported many religious endeavors including the missions of John Eliot to the Algonquin Indians in Massachusetts, and the translation of the New Testament into Irish and Turkish.
In 1690 he documented his theological views in writings called "The Christian Virtuoso." These writings sought to show that the study of nature was a religious duty. He also wrote tracts on topics including divine love, ethics, the evil of swearing and the style of Scripture.
Chemistry has fundamental applications to many different fields of study. An interest in chemistry can provide a career path as a chemist, a chemical engineer, a bio-chemist, a biologist or a medical career. Studying chemistry will ultimately require on" experiments. As Robert Boyle showed, you have to do experiments to learn more! Chemistry also requires good writing skills. You have to be able to document your work in a scientific manner so that others can understand what you did, what the goal of your experiment was, whether or not you achieved what you set out to do and what the final results were. Through my work as an electrical engineer, I have had to use chemistry much more than I ever thought I would while I was taking chemistry courses in college. It's a good foundational subject for your education!
A Chemistry Resource
Two friends of mine, Dr. Joe Calkins and Dr. Bob Salerno, have been writing some interesting software. Several years ago they wrote a program called "MoluCAD" for the National Institutes of Health. This program lets you model molecules in 3D on a computer. They now offer educational pricing on it. You can download a demo copy to try it out and if you like it you can purchase it for the student price of $19.95. Go to http://www.kinematics.com/molucad/index.htm to learn more. I have a copy of it and will be using it in conjunction with my oldest son's chemistry class next year. It's good for a high school based chemistry class with much more capability for college classes. I would recommend downloading the free trial version first.
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