Guest lecture given and illustrated by Professor Michael Hunter
The relationship between Robert Boyle and the early Royal Society is often seen as rather one-sided, with the Society putting into practice an experimental programme which Boyle had pioneered. In this lecture it will be argued that, on the contrary, the Society in its inaugural years had a significant impact on Boyle, making him more systematically Baconian in his science than had previously been the case, not least through his use of 'heads' and 'titles' to organise his data. This is shown particularly by Boyle's influential General Heads for a Natural History of a Country, Great or small, published in Philosophical Transactions in 1666, which turns out to be more of a shared initiative between Boyle and the Royal Society than is usually thought.
Michael Hunter is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London, and editor-in-chief of the Works, Correspondence and Workdiaries of Robert Boyle.