Seventeenth-century scientific wish-list comes true

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Scientist and alchemist Robert Boyle would have approved of the present day. We've finally got round to inventing most of the things on his wish-list of technological developments.

Boyle's set of predictions is featured in the Royal Society's latest exhibition marking the organization's 350th anniversary. And, in one form or another, most of them have come to pass.

They include The Prolongation of Life, as well as 'Recovery of Youth, or at least some of the Marks of it, as new Teeth, new Hair colour'd as in youth'

And 'The Art of Flying' is on the list, along with 'Potent Druggs to alter or exalt Imagination, Waking, Memory and other functions, and appease pain, procure innocent sleep, harmless dreams etc'.

He also predicted organ transplants - sonmething he experimented with himself - by adding 'The cure of Diseases at a distance or at least by transplantation'.

"This document reveals just how forward-thinking the Society and its Fellows have been since the Society’s  inception 350 years ago.  Boyle’s predictions on the future of science are quite remarkable," says Jonathan Ashmore, Fellow of the Royal Society and spokesperson for the exhibition.

"His hopes for the cure of diseases by transplantation and drugs to appease pain and aid sleep have both become inherent features of contemporary medicine and yet these were predictions he was making over 300 years ago." 

GPS was predicted by Boyle, says Ashmore, through his wish for 'The practicable and certain way of finding Longitudes', and 'The making Armor light and extremely hard' can only refer to Kevlar.

"This document provides us with an amazing window into one of the most extraordinary minds of the seventeenth Century and is one of the many fascinating artefacts on display at the exhibition," says Ashmore.