Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Robert Boyle

Irish Natural Philosopher, Chemist, Physicist and Inventor, noted for writings in Theology

"I use the Scriptures, not as an arsenal to be resorted to only for arms and weapons, but as a matchless temple, where I delight to contemplate the beauty, the symmetry, and the magnificence of the structure, and to increase my awe and excite my devotion to the Deity there preached and adored."

"And I might add the confidence with which distracted persons do oftentimes, when they are awake, think, they see black fiends in places, where there is no black object in sight without them."

"And let me adde, that he that throughly understands the nature of Ferments and Fermentations, shall probably be much better able than he that Ignores them, to give a fair account of divers phenomena of severall diseases (as well Feavers and others) which will perhaps be never throughly understood, without an insight into the doctrine of Fermentation."

"And when with excellent Microscopes I discern in otherwise invisible Objects the Inimitable Subtlety of Nature's Curious Workmanship; And when, in a word, by the help of Anatomicall Knives, and the light of Chymicall Furnaces, I study the Book of Nature, and consult the Glosses of Aristotle, Epicurus, Paracelsus, Harvey, Helmont, and other learn'd Expositors of that instructive Volumne; I find my self oftentimes reduc'd to exclaim with the Psalmist, How manifold are thy works, O Lord? In wisdom hast thou made them all."

"And, to prevent mistakes, I must advertize you, that I now mean by elements, as those chymists that speak plainest do by their principles, certain primitive or simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being made of any other bodies, or of one another, are the ingredients of which all those called perfectly mixt bodies are immediately compounded, and into which they are ultimately resolved: now whether there be any such body to be constantly met with in all, and each, of those that are said to be elemented bodies, is the thing I now question."

"As rivers, when they overflow, drown those grounds and ruin those husbandmen, which, whilst they flowed calmly betwixt their banks they fertilized and enriched, so our passions, when they grow exorbitant and unruly, destroy those virtues to which they might be very serviceable whilst kept within their bounds."

"As the moon, though darkened with spots, gives us a much greater light than the stars that sewn all-luminous, so do the Scriptures afford more light than the brightest human authors. In them the ignorant may learn all requisite knowledge, and the most knowing may learn to discern their ignorance."

"As the sun is best seen at his rising and setting, so men's native dispositions are clearest seen when they are children, and when they are dying."

"But the World being once fram'd, and the course of Nature establish'd, the Naturalist, (except in some few cases, where God, or Incorporeal Agents interpose), has recourse to the first Cause but for its general and ordinary Support and Influence, whereby it preserves Matter and Motion from Annihilation or Desition; and in explicating particular phenomena, considers onely the Size, Shape, Motion, (or want of it) Texture, and the resulting Qualities and Attributes of the small particles of Matter."

"Darkness, that here surrounds our purblind understanding, will vanish at the dawning of eternal day."

"Divers of Hermetic Books have such involv'd Obscuritys that they may justly be compar'd to Riddles written in Cyphers. For after a Man has surmounted the difficulty of decyphering the Words & Terms, he finds a new & greater difficulty to discover ye meaning of the seemingly plain Expression."

"Exalt your passion by directing and settling it upon an object the due con-templation of whose loveliness may cure perfectly all hurts received from mortal beauty."

"Female beauties are as fickle in their faces as in their minds; though casualties should spare them, age brings in a necessity of decay."

"From a knowledge of God's work we shall know Him."

"God may rationally be supposed to have framed so great and admirable an automaton as the world for special ends and purposes."

"He that condescended so far, and stooped so low, to invite and bring us to heaven, will not refuse us a gracious reception there."

"He that said it was not good for man to be alone, placed the celibate amongst the inferior states of perfection."

"I am not ambitious to appear a man of letters: I could be content the world should think I had scarce looked upon any other book than that of nature."

"I consider then, that generally speaking, to render a reason of an effect or Phaenomenon, is to deduce It from something else in Nature more known than itself, and that consequently there may be divers kinds of Degrees of Explication of the same thing. For although such Explications be the most satisfactory to the Understanding, wherein 'tis shewn how the effect is produc'd by the more primitive and Catholick Affection of Matter, namely bulk, shape and motion, yet are not these Explications to be despis'd, wherein particular effects are deduc'd from the more obvious and familiar Qualities or States of Bodies, ... For in the search after Natural Causes, every new measure of Discovery does both instinct and gratifie the Understanding."

"I look upon a good physician, not so properly as a servant to nature, as one, that is a counsellor and friendly assistant, who, in his patient's body, furthers those motions and other things, that he judges conducive to the welfare and recovery of it; but as to those, that he perceives likely to be hurtful, either by increasing the disease, or otherwise endangering the patient, he thinks it is his part to oppose or hinder, though nature do manifestly enough seem to endeavour the exercising or carrying on those hurtful motions."

"I think myself obliged, whatever my private apprehensions may be of the success, to do my duty, and leave events to their Disposer."

"I will not now discuss the Controversie betwixt some of the Modem Atomists, and the Cartesians; the former of whom think, that betwixt the Earth and the Stars, and betwixt these themselves there are vast Tracts of Space that are empty, save where the beams of Light do pass through them; and the later of whom tell us, that the Intervals betwixt the Stars and Planets (among which the Earth may perhaps be reckon'd) are perfectly fill'd, but by a Matter far subtiler than our Air, which some call Celestial, and others "

"If the juices of the body were more chymically examined, especially by a naturalist, that knows the ways of making fixed bodies volatile, and volatile fixed, and knows the power of the open air in promoting the former of those operations; it is not improbable, that both many things relating to the nature of the humours, and to the ways of sweetening, actuating, and otherwise altering them, may be detected, and the importance of such discoveries may be discerned."

"If the omniscient author of nature knew that the study of his works tends to make men disbelieve his Being or Attributes, he would not have given them so many invitations to study and contemplate Nature."

"In an arch each single stone which, if severed from the rest, would be perhaps defenceless is sufficiently secured by the solidity and entireness of the whole fabric, of which it is a part."

"It is my intent to beget a good understanding between the chymists and the mechanical philosophers who have hitherto been too little acquainted with one another's learning."

"It is not strange to me that persons of the fair sex should like, in all things about them, the handsomeness for which they find themselves most liked."

"Remember to give glory to the one who authored nature."

"The gospel comprises indeed, and unfolds, the whole mystery of man's redemption, as far forth as it is necessary to be known for our salvation: and the corpuscularian or mechanical philosophy strives to deduce all the phenomena of nature from adiaphorous matter, and local motion. But neither the fundamental doctrine of Christianity nor that of the powers and effects of matter and motion seems to be more than an epicycle ... of the great and universal system of God's contrivances, and makes but a part of the more general theory of things, knowable by the light of nature, improved by the information of the scriptures: so that both these doctrines... seem to be but members of the universal hypothesis, whose objects I conceive to be the natural counsels, and works of God, so far as they are discoverable by us in this life."

"The inspired and expired air may be sometimes very useful, by condensing and cooling the blood that passeth through the lungs; I hold that the depuration of the blood in that passage, is not only one of the ordinary, but one of the principal uses of respiration."

"In the Bible the ignorant may learn all requisite knowledge, and the most knowing may learn to discern their ignorance."

"The Requisites of a good Hypothesis are: That It be Intelligible. That It neither Assume nor Suppose anything Impossible, unintelligible, or demonstrably False. That It be consistent with Itself. That It be lit and sufficient to Explicate the Phaenomena, especially the chief. That It be, at least, consistent, with the rest of the Phaenomena It particularly relates to, and do not contradict any other known Phaenomena of nature, or manifest Physical Truth. The Qualities and Conditions of an Excellent Hypothesis are: That It be not Precarious, but have sufficient Grounds In the nature of the Thing Itself or at least be well recommended by some Auxiliary Proofs. That It be the Simplest of all the good ones we are able to frame, at least containing nothing that is superfluous or Impertinent. That It be the only Hypothesis that can Explicate the Phaenomena; or at least, that do's Explicate them so well. That it enable a skilful Naturailst to foretell future Phaenomena by the Congruity or Incongruity to it; and especially the event of such Experlm'ts as are aptly devis'd to examine It, as Things that ought, or ought not, to be consequent to It."

"The subsequent course of nature, teaches, that God, indeed, gave motion to matter; but that, in the beginning, he so guided the various motion of the parts of it, as to contrive them into the world he design'd they should compose; and establish'd those rules of motion, and that order amongst things corporeal, which we call the laws of nature. Thus, the universe being once fram'd by God, and the laws of motion settled, and all upheld by his perpetual concourse, and general providence; the same philosophy teaches, that the phenomena of the world, are physically produced by the mechanical properties of the parts of matter; and, that they operate upon one another according to mechanical laws. 'Tis of this kind of corpuscular philosophy, that I speak."

"Self-denial is a kind of holy association with God; and by making him your partner interests him in all your happiness."

"Testimony is like an arrow shot from a long bow; its force depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. "

"The main thing that induces me to question the safeness of the vulgar methodus medendi in many cases is the consideration of the nature of those Helps they usually employ, and some of which are honoured with the title of Generous Remedies. These helps are Bleeding, Vomiting, Purging, Sweating, and Spitting, of which I briefly observe in General, that they are sure to weaken or discompose when they are imployed, but do not certainly cure afterwards."

"That there is a Spring, or Elastical power in the Air we live in. By which ?????? [elater] or Spring of the Air, that which I mean is this: That our Air either consists of, or at least abounds with, parts of such a nature, that in case they be bent or compress'd by the weight of the incumbent part of the Atmosphere, or by any other Body, they do endeavour, as much as in them lies, to free themselves from that pressure, by bearing against the contiguous Bodies that keep them bent."

"'Tis evident, that as common Air when reduc'd to half Its wonted extent, obtained near about twice as forcible a Spring as it had before; so this thus- comprest Air being further thrust into half this narrow room, obtained thereby a Spring about as strong again as that It last had, and consequently four times as strong as that of the common Air. And there is no cause to doubt, that If we had been here furnisht with a greater quantity of Quicksilver and a very long Tube, we might by a further compression of the included Air have made It counter-balance 'the pressure' of a far taller and heavier Cylinder of Mercury. For no man perhaps yet knows how near to an infinite compression the Air may be capable of, If the compressing force be competently increast."

"We'll always be happy with more convention space or plenary space, ... The city can always use it."

"The book of nature is a fine and large piece of tapestry rolled up, which we are not able to see at once, but must be content to wait for the discovery of its beauty and symmetry little by little, as it gradually comes to be more unfolded."

"There really isn't any clear evidence that very small micro- businesses -- mom and pop operations -- will benefit."

"The veneration, wherewith Men are imbued for what they call Nature, has been a discouraging impediment to the Empire of Man over the inferior Creatures of God. For many have not only look'd upon it, as an impossible thing to compass, but as something impious to attempt."

"There is no concrete plan. I think development is certainly possible, but I don't think there is any guarantee."

"The things for which life is valuable are the satisfactions which come from the improvement of knowledge and the exercise of piety."