You are here: Home Robert Boyle Summer School 2013

Robert Boyle Summer School 2013

Programme 4th - 7th July 2013

Special rate €50 for all talks

Individual presentations €8

Book online Here:

or pay on arrival "at the door"


Friday Night BBQ at Lismore Castle €15 (Included with "all talks" ticket)

Sunday Guided Coach tour of west Waterford €10

Thursday 4th July: Introduction to Boyle and Lismore

Thursday’s programme is designed to introducing Boyle to those who may not be too familiar with him. It will involve a talk on how he might have seemed to his friends and a costumed re-enactment of some of his experiments, as well as familiarisation with the history and locality of the town of Lismore.

Morning Session:

9:30 – 10:30 The Lismore Experience



10:00 & 11:30 The Boyle Show


Eoin Gill,

Waterford Institute of Technology

Eoin Gill performs a costumed recreation of Boyle's most famous experiments demonstrating his fundamental discoveries in physics and chemistry. In addition to telling the story of Boyle's life this presentation also shows the transition from the old world view inherited from Aristotle to a recognisably modern scientific approach.


About the speaker

Eoin Gill is a lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology and a director of Calmast WIT’s award winning STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) outreach centre. He has been involved in a wide range of public engagement in STEM and is founder of Maths Week Ireland now the largest festival of its kind in the world.

He is particularly passionate about promoting appreciation of Robert Boyle around Ireland and developed the Boyle Shows for this purpose. He has also given presentations on Boyle in Britain, around Europe and as far away as Korea and China.





11:30 – 12:30 Walking Tour of Lismore


Evening Lecture


7:00pm Robert Boyle: Getting to know the man from Lismore: Genius, polymath and eccentric



Jim Malone

Robert Boyle Foundation

This paper will recount the main events of Robert Boyle’s life using his travels and places of abode as a framework. It will describe some of his scientific work, not just in chemistry and physics, but in many other fields of science, medicine, philosophy and theology. These will be placed in the context of his personality and lifestyle, as described by his friends and acquaintances (as opposed to later biographers). What emerges is an exceptional religious, courteous humane man whose contributions to science were “game changing”. Yet he was highly eccentric and for this alone might be remembered



About the speaker

Jim Malone is (Emeritus) Robert Boyle Professor of Medical Physics at Trinity College Dublin and Director of the Robert Boyle Foundation. He is a Consultant with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna since 2006, a regular contributor to the European School of Medical Physics in Geneva, and was Dean of the School of Medicine/Faculty of Health Sciences at Trinity College. He has broad interests in the humanities and directed two Merriman Summer Schools. He has been reading Boyle’s work in its original format for over 25 years.


Friday will see an examination of some aspects of the rich history and context of the period in which Boyle lived and worked. He lived through great upheaval, including the Cromwellian period, the restoration of the English monarchy and the creation of the Royal Society. In science the agenda and boundaries were still fluid and, for example, the place of alchemy had not yet been settled. His contemporaries included Isaac Newton and Samuel Pepys. Events will conclude with a BBQ at Lismore Castle.

Morning Session:

9:30 – 10:00 am Registration




10:00 am On the Boyle: Robert Boyle (1627–1691) and early modern English science



Dr Anna-Marie Roos,

University of Lincoln

Robert Boyle was the dominant figure in late seventeenth-century English science, his reputation only later overshadowed by Newton in the early 1700s. His discovery of his law that demonstrated the inverse relationship between the pressure applied to a gas and its volume, his work on acids and alkalis, his theories of corpuscularianism (a form of early atomism), and his dedication to experiment made him an iconic figure in the early Royal Society, the first government-supported scientific society in the world. An illustration of his air pump that refuted Aristotle's premise that nature abhorred a vacuum adorned the frontispiece of Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society (1667). This is the Boyle familiar to most of us. But go beyond the air pump and pV =K, and we find that he was part of the scene of seventeenth-century science long before the Royal Society was founded in November 1660. This talk is going to analyse the scientific scene of that time and Boyle's role in it.


About the Speaker

Anna Marie is a historian of early modern England (the era spanning Boyle’s life) and is particularly interested in the history of science. She has also published on the history of magic and astrological medicine and the history of the Royal Society. Until her recent move to Lincoln, she was Lister Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Anna Marie has researched Boyle and many of his contemporaries and is ideally suited to talk about Boyle, his life and times with reference to his contemporaries and the state of science, and to consider Boyle’s place in history.





11:30am Boyle in Ireland 1652-1654: Medicine and the Mechanical Philosophy



William Eaton,

Georgia Southern University

In this paper the importance of anatomy to mechanical philosophy in general will be demonstrated, and Boyle's mechanical philosophy in particular, by tracing Boyle's  anatomical research with William Petty during his trip to Ireland from 1652 to 1654, and showing its influence on his philosophical development


About the speaker

Dr. William Eaton is Associate Professor of Modern Philosophy at Georgia Southern University. He is the author of Boyle on Fire: The Mechanical Revolution in Scientific Explanation (2005), and the co-author, with Robert Higgerson, of "Causation and the Cartesian Reduction of Motion" and "How To Malebranche an al Ghazali: Causation, Miracles, and Natural Events."





3:30 pm Afternoon Session


Valentine Greatrakes, Ireland and the Boyles: the making of an early modern miracle healer



Dr Peter Elmer

University of Exeter

In 1666, an obscure Irish gentleman named Valentine Greatrakes achieved brief celebrity throughout Britain, when he demonstrated his so-called gift of miraculous 'stroking' before the court of Charles II and at other venues in the city of London. While visiting the capital, his cures also aroused the interest of a wide range of natural philosophers, many attached to the newly founded Royal Society, including Robert Boyle. In this talk, Peter will examine the Irish roots of Greatrakes' claim to heal the sick through the power of touch, as well as drawing a number of intriguing parallels between the lives and aspirations of the Irish stroker and Boyle. While Boyle may have fallen short of fully endorsing the miraculous claims of Greatrakes, there is little doubt that the two men shared much in common, including a deep-seated desire to heal the wider religious and political breaches in early modern Britain.




About the Speaker

Peter Elmer has a broad interest in the cultural and intellectual history of early modern Europe, with a particular interest in the impact of religious and political change upon medicine and its practitioners (and related fields such as witchcraft and magic) in Britain in the same period. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter’s history department He was formerly a “central academic” in the history department of the Open University where he was responsible for overseeing the introduction of new courses on the history of medicine. . His book on Valentine Greatrakes The Miraculous Conformist: Valentine Greatrakes, the Body Politic, and the Politics of Healing in Restoration has recently been published. His other books include The Healing Arts: Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1500-1800 . and Challenges to Authority The Renaissance in Europe.




4:45 pm   Screening of audio visual presentation, Lismore Experience

(30 mins)


Friday Evening Session


7:00 pm Re-enactment of some Famous Experiments of Robert Boyle




7:30 pm Bar-B-Que in the Upper Stables of Lismore Castle



Guest of Honour, Mr Sean Sherlock TD, Minister for Science and Innovation


In the atmospheric Lismore Castle, relax and mix with other participants.

Savour wonderful local produce served by Nude Food Dungarvan with glass of elderflower cordial or something stronger and enjoy the famous traditional Music of Booley House


(Priced at €15)





Boyle considered that the new science of the age could and should bring great benefits to mankind. This year is the 350th anniversary of the publication of Boyle’s book “Some Considerations touching the usefulness of Experimental Natural Philosophy”. The Summer School therefore will first hear the prominent historian of the period Allan Chapman and will reflect on how science has benefitted mankind and through two world leading researchers consider the recent and future progress in two very important areas that were of concern to Boyle: health and food production

Morning Session


10:00 am "For the Glory of God, and for the Relief of Man's Estate":

What motivated Robert Boyle to become a great experimental scientist?

Dr Allan Chapman

University of Oxford


Robert Boyle came to science largely through his religion, and the sense that Providence could be "tested". And like most of the early Royal Society Fellows, he subscribed to Sir Francis Bacon's vision of science as exploring God's Glory and improving the human condition - pure and applied science, as we would now say. Hence his particular concern with the usefulness of experimental science.




About the Speaker

Allan Chapman is a historian of science and medicine at Oxford University. He is a native of Manchester, and studied first at Lancaster University and then at Oxford, where he took his doctorate and where he now teaches. His particular interests lie in the development of the technical aspects of science and in scientific biography, and his main areas of research and publishing are in the history of astronomy and the history of surgery.  He receives invitations to speak from numerous scientific organisations and institutions: astronomers, physicians, surgeons, chemists, and engineers; and he is also active in the field of science and religion.  In addition to lecturing, he broadcasts extensively on BBC TV and radio, and on independent TV, on science history subjects. He is widely published, with over eight books to his name, plus more than a hundred substantial academic papers and a great many articles in magazines, encyclopaedias, and newspapers. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate in science by two British universities in recognition of his work as a science historian: by the University of Central Lancashire in 2004 and the University of Salford in 2010.






11:30 am The Impact of Global Ageing



Professor Rose Ann Kenny,

Trinity College Dublin

Human ageing and life expectancy has been a preoccupation through the centuries. Boyle was very concerned with his own health and the welfare of others. Rose Anne will look at what progress has been made by science in extending life expectancy and reflect on the challenges in terms of quality of life and how society will have to adjust in response.

More information here




About the Speaker

Presenter of groundbreaking RTE documentary “The End of Ageing”, Rose Anne is Professor of Geriatric Medicine at TCD and St James Hospital, Head of the Department of Medical Gerontology, and Director of the new Centre for Successful Ageing. Formerly Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the Institute for Ageing & Health, Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, she has been a world leader in research into cardiovascular and mobility disorders in ageing. Lead investigator for the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), and is also a principal investigator for Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL).



Saturday Afternoon


3:30pm Plants for the 21st Century


Professor Liam Dolan,

Oxford University.

In the Usefulness of Natural Philosophy Boyle wrote: “I shall not consider myself a true naturalist, til my skill can make my garden bear better herbs and flowers, my orchard better fruit, or my field better corn, or my dairy better cheese, than theirs that are strangers to physiology”. The 20th Century saw amazing progress in food production made possible by science. However global population has risen faster and many in the world still do not have enough to eat. Liam will outline the challenges of increasing food production against a background of climate, environmental and societal change and introduce present scientific work that shows promise of meeting global food demand.





About the Speaker

Liam is Sherardian Professor of Botany and Head of Department of Botany at Oxford University and a director of the Plants for the 21st Century Institute. A native of Dublin, he is a graduate of UCD and University of Pennsylvania.



5:00 pm   Tour Of Lismore Castle Gardens




8:00 pm   Dinner at Lismore House Hotel

Four Course Dinner in the ballroom.

€25 (cost not included in conference fee)

Dinner will include entertainment devised by Jim Malone and Liam Convery


10:00 pm   Panel Discussion at Lismore House Hotel


A chaired panel discussion will take place after dinner. This will be an opportunity to draw the different stories and perspectives together from all the speakers and for the audience to join in the conversation.




Sunday 7th July A relaxing finish






12:00 pm  - 2:00 pm Coach Tour of Sites of Interest in West Waterford

(Priced separately  €10 not included in conference fee)


Participants will be taken on a journey from the pastoral landscape of the Blackwater Valley to the sea shore at Dungarvan and on to the uplands of the Knockmealdown mountains. Along the way they will learn about some extraordinary figures from the area: especially those who contributed to science. Stops will include Affane where Valentine Greatrakes lived and is buried and Abbeyside the birthplace of Ireland’s only Nobel laureate in science, Ernest Walton. .

Guided by Donald Brady, former Waterford County Librarian and author of Waterford Scientists.

Book Here: Special rate €50 for all talks




About last year's Summer School:

More Info here

see 2012 Poster Here

Enquiries and Booking for the festival may be made with Lismore Heritage Centre

Telephone: +353 (0) 58 54975 / 54855


Thanks to the supporters of Robert Boyle Summer School 2013:

The Robert Boyle


Institute of Chemistry of Ireland



logo by