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Between God and Science

Michael Hunter

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Robert Boyle ranks with Newton and Einstein as one of the world’s most important scientists. Aristocrat and natural philosopher, he was a remarkably wide-ranging and penetrating thinker—pioneering the modern experimental method, championing a novel mechanical view of nature, and reflecting deeply on philosophical and theological issues related to science. But, as Michael Hunter shows, Boyle was also a complex and contradictory personality, fascinated by alchemy and magic and privately plagued with doubts about faith and conscience, which troubled the rational vision he heralded.

This extraordinary work is the first biography of Boyle in a generation, and the culminating achievement of a world-renowned expert on the scientist. Deftly navigating Boyle’s voluminous published works as well as his personal letters and papers, Hunter’s complete and intimate account gives us the man rather than myth, the troubled introvert as well as the public campaigner. Lively, perceptive, and full of original insights, this is the definitive account of a remarkable man and the changing world in which he lived.

A renowned world expert on Robert Boyle, Michael Hunter is professor of history, Birkbeck College, University of London.

"In recent years nobody has done more than Michael Hunter to enhance and extend our knowledge and understanding of Boyle's life and work. Here, he presents the reader with a superb finely textured and insightful survey of Boyle and his historical context which, firmly based on his own unsurpassed expertise, remains accessible and always fascinating."—John Henry, author of The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science

"A triumph of historical research, this detail-packed, immersive account of Boyle’s life from cradle to grave features a fascinating table of his whereabouts and an index you can sink your teeth into (under "Boyle, Robert": conscience, diet, investments, raving, mineral collection, secrecy, stutter). As intricately woven as a tapestry, the biography imparts the excitement of an era when science was very new, when accomplishing an experiment was, in Boyle’s words, 'a kind of Elizium.'"—Seed Magazine (Books to Read (And Give) Now)

"A painstakingly researched biography."—The New Yorker ("Briefly Noted" section)

“Michael Hunter’s new biography will add greatly to readers’ knowledge of Boyle and may correct some misimpressions....It would be unfortunate…to overlook the merits of this authoritative study of a very significant figure in the history of science.”

--American Scientist

‘A comprehensive account of Boyle’s life that incorporates all the latest research…Hunter meticulously investigates every scrap of evidence.’--Patricia Fara, BBC History Magazine

‘This definitive biography of the great 17th-century scientist…is clear and very readable.’

‘We’ll never know enough about the day-to-day life or the inner turmoil of one of the 17th-century’s finest natural philosophers, but Hunter brings us as close as we are ever likely to get.’

‘This biography, by the leading expert on Boyle, is well written, authoritative and perceptive, displaying the author’s intimate knowledge of Boyle’s published works and personal papers…This book will certainly become the definitive biography of Boyle, his science and his God.’ — Mary Daniels, Chemistry World, March 2010

"Hunter has written what will be the first point of reference for future inquiries concerning Boyle."--American Scientist

"Michael Hunter is. . . our leading authority on Boyle."--Michael Dirda, The Washington Post


"Though his discoveries have been overshadowed by his younger contemporary Isaac Newton, this lucid and absorbing life reminds us that Robert Boyle stands at the roots of British empiricism."—The Independent

“Boyle is an impressive figure, both as a natural philosopher and as a philosopher in our sense of the term, and Boyle: Between God and Science is a mine of information for anyone interested in Boyle, or, indeed, in philosophy in the early modern period.”—J.J. MacIntosh, British Journal for the History of Philosophy

"Robert Boyle [is] one of the most prominent natural philosophers of the second half of the seventeenth century. . . . This book will provide essential background for scholars."—Margaret J. Osler, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“Hunter deserves credit for shedding new light on the devout and politically trimming aristocrat.”—Ambix Vol.58 No.2

Selected as one of the Top 10 Books of the Year, Seed Magazine

Shortlisted for the 2009 History of Science's Pfizer Prize for Outstanding Book

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2010 in the the History of Science & Technology category

Winner of the 2011 Roy G. Neville Prize sponsored by Chemical Heritage Foundation

Winner of the 2011 Samuel Pepys Award (UK Award)
ISBN: 9780300123814
Publication Date: October 27, 2009
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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