Robert Boyle's prophetic scientific predictions from the 17th century go on display in the UK
The chemist Robert Boyle made the "wish list" as he helped found the Royal Society, the world's first scientific body in 1660s London.
The predictions, which also include submarines, genetically modified crops and psychedelic drugs, were unveiled as the centre piece of an exhibition celebrating the society's 350th anniversary.
They are extraordinary because all but a few of the 24 have come true, an amazing achievement when they were written at a time dominated by magic and religious superstitions and before the word science was even coined.
Professor Jonathan Ashmore, Fellow of the Royal Society, said: “Boyle’s predictions on the future of science are quite remarkable.
"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.
"This document provides us with an amazing window into one of the most extraordinary minds of the 17th Century and is one of the many fascinating artefacts on display at the exhibition.”
Boyle, who is best known for his Boyle's Law on the behaviour of gases, was among a number of famous "natural philosophers" of the time including Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, who set about uncovering the secrets of the world through experimentation.
They first founded the "Invisible College" at Oxford University and then the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge in 1660.
The society, which had the motto Nullus In Verba – Take Nobody's Word For It, had a remarkable penchant for lists often dreamt up over long discussions in the coffee shops of 17th century London.
Boyle's own handwritten "wish list" was found in his personal papers which had been donated at his death in 1691 to the Royal Society.
They range from the more obvious and sensible such as "The Prolongation of Life", the "Art of Flying" and "perpetual light" to the more bizarre – "Varnishes perfumable by Rubbing" – scratch and sniff – and "attaining gigantick dimensions" – supersizing.
Boyle also predicted Kevlar body armour with "making armor light and extremely hard" and unsinkable motor boats – "A ship to saile with All Winds, and a Ship not to be sunk".
Navigation at sea was predicted with the "practicable and certain way of finding Longitudes" as well as sleeping tablets, artificial stimulants and antidepressants with the "potent druggs (sic) to alter or Exalt Imagination, Waking, Memory and other functions and appease pain, procure innocent sleep, harmless dreams etc".
Keith Moore, librarian at the Royal Society, said: "Nowadays we take these ideas entirely for granted but in the 17th century this was prophetic.
"This was an age that still believed in magic, which had just come out of the bloodiest civil war imaginable and was divided by religion.
"It is remarkable that this wish list is still relevant today."
The exhibition is part of the Society's 350th anniversary year celebrations and displays material from the Society's foundation in 1660 to the present day.
comments powered by Disqus
- Number of women leaders around the world has grown, but they’re still a small group
- Say goodbye to the weirdest border dispute in the world
- Harvard acquires Thoreau's notes on the death of Margaret Fuller
- It’s a national historic site, but hardly anybody visits the Idaho internment camp where thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated in WW II
- Big-time Hollywood director makes a movie about Stonewall
- Richard Rothstein says government policy created ghettos
- The Islamic historian who can explain why some states fail and others succeed
- High school senior credited with debunking book by Professor Richard Jensen
- Historians at loggerheads over the AP standards
- Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems