Who Was The Honorable Robert Boyle?

Robert Boyle is considered the father of modern chemistry and one of the pioneers of the modern experimental scientific method. In 1660, Boyle and other scholars, including architect Sir Christopher Wren, founded the distinguished Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, which is now the United Kingdom’s national science academy. Educated at Eton College, and later by European tutors, Boyle is perhaps best known for “Boyle’s Law,” which states that the pressure and volume of gas have an inverse relationship when temperature is constant. A devout Anglican, Boyle believed faith should be accompanied by charitable activities and the study of nature.

Although Boyle died before William & Mary was founded in 1693 and never visited the New World, he was key to the University’s origins. At his death in 1691, Boyle’s will instructed that a portion of his estate be invested in “pious and charitable uses.” James Blair, William & Mary’s first president, persuaded Boyle’s executors to devote some of the funds to the newly formed College. The executors purchased the Brafferton estate in Yorkshire so that proceeds from its rental would go to William & Mary from 1697 until the American Revolution. The funds helped to advance a variety of projects at William & Mary and supported the education of Indian students. Blair subsequently named William & Mary’s Indian School the Brafferton, and the building now houses the president’s office on campus.