County Waterford, Ireland
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In his will Boyle established a series of lectures “intended to defend the Christian religion against those he considered ‘notorious infidels, namely atheists, deists, pagans, Jews and Muslims.” The first lecture was given in 1692 by Richard Bentley [1662-1742], “A Confutation of Atheism.” They continued annually with some gaps of up to 7 or 8 years until 1905. The lectures resumed in 2004. The series was supported by the rent of Boyle’s house at Crooked Lane and when the revenue from this rental was seen to be inadequate Bishop Tennison “procured a yearly stipend of £50 forever to be paid quarterly, charged on a farm in the parish of Brill Buckinghamshire” to ensure their continuance.
In 1899 the Royal Dublin Society inaugurated a scheme to award “a medal for scientific research of exceptional merit carried out in Ireland” In the meeting establishing the award Professor John Jolly [1857-1933] read a statement providing the reason for “attaching to the medal the honoured name of Boyle” as reported in the Irish Times of Thursday 23rd March 1899. He also read the report of the Science Committee of the Royal Dublin Society on the award of the Boyle medal” to Dr George Johnstone Stoney [1826-1911]. Stoney is best remembered for his introduction of the term “electron.” Interestingly he worked for Lord Rosse and had a keen interest and involvement in astronomical studies. His son Gerald was employed by Sir Charles Parsons in the works which had incorporated the business of Grubb. It should also be noted that the 1912 award went to Sir Howard Grubb son of Thomas Grubb
Since 1999 the award “has been a joint venture between the Royal Dublin Society and the Irish Times” and is now awarded biennially to “a scientist based in Ireland and an Irish Scientist based abroad.” The logic for the joint participation was recently set out in an article by that paper’s Science Editor, Dick Ahlstrom stating that the award helped in promoting a better public understanding of science which is “an ambition of both the RDS and the Irish Times (42).” There have been 36 awards to date.
(42) Ahlstrom, Dick Search for leading scientists: Boyle Medal; drawing on the past, looking to the future.” Irish Times Thursday 23rd October 2008
Empirical science was at the heart of Boyle’s thought and methodology. His religious tolerance was exemplary in an era of horrific religious conflicts and while it was notably applied to other Protestant denominations it may possibly have extended to Catholicism. He openly stated that everyone should “enjoy the liberty of worshipping God according to their own conscience (43).” He did not engage in the “controversial polemics” of the day nor the rhetoric the accompanied it.
(43) Farrington, Thomas A life of the Honble. Robert Boyle pg. 21
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