Robert Boyle was a famous scientist who lived 350 years ago. He helped create the Royal Society, which started as a group of scientists who would share their scientific ideas and carry out experiments, just like scientists today. But unlike scientists today, who usually study just one subject, he studied all branches of science, from how we breathe to how sound travels.

Scientists today

Dr Dino GiussaniRobert Boyle carried out many experiments, and although he didn't discover oxygen, he knew that there was something important in air and in blood that helped keep animals and humans alive. Dr Dino Giussani is a Royal Society funded scientist at the University of Cambridge who studies why oxygen is so important for humans very early in life, especially during the time when we are growing and developing inside our mother's womb before we are born.







What do you study?

Heart disease - which includes many different types of illness where something is wrong with the heart and blood vessels. Heart disease causes the greatest number of deaths in the world today. Not only does this mean that there are a lot of sick people, it can also be very expensive for countries to look after and treat people.

We have known for a while that lifestyle, such as smoking and obesity, can increase the likelihood of getting heart disease. We also know that heart disease runs in families, and is related to people's genes. 

However, it has been discovered fairly recently that even how we develop inside our mother's womb can affect how likely we are to get heart disease when we are older. When we are still in the womb, our heart and blood vessels gradually develop, from a few cells, into what we have in our bodies when we are born. For our heart and blood vessels to grow and develop correctly, we need a good supply of oxygen and nutrients. These have to pass from the mother through the placenta and to the baby in the womb.

Who inspired you to become a scientist?

When I finished my university degree in Physiology (the study of the body), I wished that I had been born in the 1600s, so that I could be part of discovering how the heart and blood circulation work, alongside William Harvey, who was an important scientist at that time. 

Studying babies before they are born has allowed me to look at similar questions that William Harvey had, but instead of studying human adults, I can study humans inside the womb, before we are born! 

What do you love about your job?

It is so exciting to make a new discovery in science - something that no one else has found out before! Because the things I investigate are always different, my work is always exciting.  I do not see my work as a 'job'.  It is fun every day and I shall never tire from it.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy cooking for friends and family. I am a keen sculptor and sometimes get the chance to make clay models and cast them in bronze. I enjoy playing football, which has down-sized to 5 -a -side, as I have grown older! 

If you could go back in time and meet Robert Boyle, what would you like to ask him?

"We now know how important oxygen is for life on earth. What would you think if I told you we have discovered other gases that are even more important for life on Earth, which appear necessary for life to have evolved?"