The Impact of European Trade with Southeast Asia on the Mineralogical Studies of Robert Boyle

  • Claire Sabel
Part of the Europe's Asian Centuries book series (EAC)


This chapter considers An Essay About the Origine and Virtues of Gems, a lesser-known text by the English natural philosopher Robert Boyle (1627–1691) published in 1672. The chapter shows how gems fit into Boyle’s broader interests in the subterranean world and in East Indian travelogues. By demonstrating that Boyle consulted travel narratives for information about precious stones, I argue that the commercial mapping of gem deposits by Europeans in the hard-to-reach regions of mainland Southeast Asia contributed substantively to Boyle’s theory of gem formation. Boyle’s reliance on these sources helped him to make the connection between geographic location and chemical reactions and to understand that the chemical reactions that produced gems were place-specific.


Robert Boyle East India Company Mineralogy Chemistry Southeast Asia Trade Travel writing Gemstones 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire Sabel
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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