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sci - The New Experimentalism Robert Boyle and the Air Pump...

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The New Experimentalism: Robert Boyle and the Air Pump Robert Boyle: (1627-91) English. Wealthy englishman interested in chemistry and the ‘new philosophy’ followed Bacon in emphasizing observable matters of fact over speculative ‘hypotheses’ Experiments could never give the kind of certainty that Boyle thought was the only worthwhile goal of philosophy. Experiments give you knowledge of properties and behaviors of things. In the 1650’s, Boyle read that Otto von Guericke (1602-86, German) had found a way to pump air from a sealed metal box. Guericke’s ideas revolved around the idea of electricity and a vacuum. When he first does this experiment, it crunches due to pressure. It is difficult to do experiments on what is going on inside this metal chamber. Boyle and Robert Hook (1635- 1703) built an improved air pump with a glass vessel and began experiments. Boyle was a Harvey follower, and was interested in chemistry. Particularly he was interested in respiration - what does the air do to the blood? Hook was a great scientist and a fairly good mathematician. His social status, though, is somewhat ambiguous - he is not as wealthy and must hire himself out. Hook basically made the air pump (Boyle has the idea). Hook was over shadowed by Boyle and Newton. Hook assisted Boyle and did most of the work In New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air and it’s Effects (1660) Boyle reported on air pump experiments involving fire, sound, light, etc. He showed that air was “springy” by measuring the compression of air trapped int he short lef of a J tube, confirming Boyle’s Law -- Pressure x Volume = constant. The idea of compressing air was controversial at the time - how could you put more air into something that was already full of air? Boyle did an experiment in response to these criticisms with a J tube - resulting in Boyle’s law (above). If you double the pressure on a volume of air, the volume of the air will decrease by half. This was a good Baconian inductive law: approximate, tentative, and independent of any hypothesis about an underlying cause. Boyle believed the cause of this to be mechanical. He is very clear though, that this is speculation - he
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