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Robert Hooke

c. 1680 Portrait of a Mathematician by Mary Beale, conjectured to be of Hooke[1][2] but also conjectured to be of Isaac Barrow[3]
Born18 July 1635
Died3 March 1703(1703-03-03) (aged 67)[a]
London, England
Resting placeSt Helen's Church, Bishopsgate
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
Known forHooke's law
Coining the term 'cell'
Scientific career
FieldsPhysics and Biology
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
Academic advisorsRobert Boyle

Robert Hooke FRS (/hʊk/; 18 July 1635 – 3 March 1703).[4][a] was an English polymath, active as a physicist ("natural philosopher"), astronomer, geologist, meteorologist and architect.[5] He is credited as one of the first scientists to explore living things at microscopic scale (in 1665),[6] using a compound microscope that he designed.[7] An impoverished scientific inquirer in young adulthood, he became one of the most important scientists of his day and found wealth and esteem by performing over half of the property surveys after London's great fire of 1666 and assisting in the city's rapid reconstruction.[8][9] In recent times, he has been called "England's Leonardo".[10]

Hooke was a Fellow of the Royal Society and, from 1662, was its first Curator of Experiments.[8] From 1665 to 1703, he was also Professor of Geometry at Gresham College.[11] Beginning his scientific career as an assistant to physical scientist Robert Boyle, he built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's experiments on gas law, and himself conducted experiments.[12] In 1664, he identified the rotations of the planets Mars and Jupiter.[11] Hooke's 1665 book Micrographia, in which he coined the term cell, spurred microscopic investigations.[13][14] Investigating in optics, specifically light refraction, he inferred a wave theory of light.[15] His is the first recorded hypothesis of the cause of heat expanding matter,[16] air's composition by small particles at larger distances,[17] and heat as energy.[18]

In physics, Hooke approximated experimental confirmation that gravity heeds an inverse square law and arguably was first to hypothesise such a relation in planetary motion,[19][20] a principle furthered and formalised by Isaac Newton in Newton's law of universal gravitation.[21] Priority over this insight contributed to the rivalry between Hooke and Newton. In geology and palaeontology, he originated the theory of a terraqueous globe,[22] thus disputing the literally Biblical view of the Earth's age, hypothesised the extinction of species, and argued that hills and mountains had become elevated by geological processes.[23] By identifying fossils of extinct species, he presaged the theory of biological evolution.[22][24]

Life and works

Early life

Much of what is known of Hooke's early life comes from an autobiography that he commenced in 1696 but never completed. Richard Waller FRS mentions it in his introduction to The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke, M.D. S.R.S., printed in 1705.[25][b] The work of Waller, along with John Ward's Lives of the Gresham Professors,[27] and John Aubrey's Brief Lives,[28] form the major near-contemporaneous biographical accounts of his life.

Hooke was born in 1635 in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight to Cecily Gyles and John Hooke, an Anglican priest, the curate of Freshwater's Church of All Saints.[29] Robert was the youngest, by seven years, of four siblings, two boys and two girls;[30] he was frail and not expected to live.[31] Although his father gave him some instruction in English, (Latin) Grammar and Divinity, his education was largely neglected.[32] Left to his own devices, he made little mechanical toys; seeing a brass clock dismantled, he built a wooden replica that "would go".[32]

His father died in October 1648, leaving £40 in his will to Robert together with another £10 held in trust from his grandmother.[33][c] Aged just 13, he took this to London to become an apprentice to the celebrated painter Peter Lely,[35] and also had "some instruction in drawing" from the limner Samuel Cowper.[34] But "the smell of the Oil Colours did not agree with his Constitution, increasing his Head-ache to which he was ever too much subject" and he became instead a pupil at Westminster School, living with its master, Dr. Richard Busby.[37] Hooke quickly mastered Latin and Greek, as well as Euclid's Elements,[11] learned to play the organ[38] and began his lifelong study of mechanics.[11] He remained an accomplished draughtsman, as he was later to demonstrate in his drawings to illustrate the work of Robert Boyle and for his own Micrographia.[39]


Robert Boyle by Johann Kerseboom, at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire

In 1653, Hooke secured a place at Christ Church, Oxford, receiving free tuition and accommodation as an organist and a chorister, and a basic income as a servitor,[40][d] although he did not officially matriculate until 1658.[40] In 1662, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree.[38]

While a student at Oxford, Hooke was also employed as assistant to Dr Thomas Willis (a physician, chemist and member of the Oxford Philosophical Club).[42][e] The Philosophical Club had been founded by John Wilkins, Warden of Wadham College, who led this important group of scientific minds: this group went on to form the nucleus of the Royal Society.[44] In 1659, he described some elements of a method of heavier-than-air flight to the Club, but concluded that human muscles were insufficient to the task.[45] Through the Club, Hooke met Seth Ward, the University's Savilian Professor of Astronomy and developed for Ward a mechanism that improved the regularity of pendulum clocks used for astronomical time-keeping.[46] Hooke himself characterised his Oxford days as the foundation of his lifelong passion for science.[47] The friends he made there, particularly Christopher Wren, were of paramount importance to him throughout his career. It was Willis who introduced him to Robert Boyle, who the Club sought to attract to Oxford.[48]

In 1655, Boyle moved to Oxford and Hooke became nominally his assistant but in practice his co-experimenter.[48] Boyle had been working on gas pressures: the possibility that a vacuum might exist despite Aristotle's maxim that "Nature abhors a vacuum" had just begun to be considered. Hooke developed an air pump for Boyle's experiments, rather than use the pump of Ralph Greatorex (which Hook considered as "too gross to perform any great matter").[49] Hooke's engine enabled development of the eponymous law subsequently attributed to Boyle;[50][f] it also caused them to recognise that fire is chemical reaction and not, as Aristotle taught, a fundamental element of nature.[52]

Royal Society

Without his weekly experiments and prolific work the Society could scarcely have survived, or, at least, would have developed in a quite different way. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that he was, historically, the creator of the Royal Society.[53]

— Henry Robinson, Librarian, The Royal Society, 1935

The Royal Society ("for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge by Experiment"[g]) was founded in 1660 and given its Royal Charter in July 1662.[54] In April 1661 the society debated a short tract on the rising of water in slender glass pipes, in which Hooke reported that the height water rose was related to the bore of the pipe (due to what is now termed capillary action).[55] On 5 November 1661, Sir Robert Moray proposed that a Curator be appointed to furnish the society with Experiments, and this was unanimously passed with Hooke being named on Boyle's recommendation.[8] His appointment was made on 12 November 1662, with thanks recorded to Dr. Boyle for releasing him to the Society's employment.[56] In 1663, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The Society did not actually have a reliable income to fully fund the post of Curator of Experiments but, in 1664, Sir John Cutler settled an annual gratuity of £50 on the Society for the founding of a "Mechanick Lecture" at Gresham College,[57] on the basis that the Society would appoint Hooke to this task.[56] On 27 June 1664 he was confirmed to the office, and on 11 January 1665 was named 'Curator by Office' for life with an annual salary of £80,[h] consisting of £30 from the Society and Cutler's £50 annuity.[i]

On 20 March 1665, he was also appointed Gresham Professor of Geometry.[59][60] On 13 September 1667, Hooke became acting Secretary of the Society;[61] on 19 December 1667 he was appointed its Joint Secretary.[62]

Personality, relationships, health

Illustration from The posthumous works of Robert Hooke... published in Acta Eruditorum, 1707

Although Aubrey described him as a person of "great virtue and goodness",[63] much has been written about the unpleasant side of Hooke's personality. This habit began with comments by his first biographer, Richard Waller, that he was "in person, but despicable" and "melancholy, mistrustful, and jealous".[64] Waller's comments influenced other writers for well over two centuries, so that a picture of him as a disgruntled, selfish, anti-social curmudgeon dominates many older books and articles – especially biographies of Newton. For example, Arthur Berry said that Hooke "claimed credit for most of the scientific discoveries of the time".[65] Sullivan wrote that he was "positively unscrupulous" and possessing an "uneasy apprehensive vanity" in dealings with Newton.[66] Manuel used the phrase "cantankerous, envious, vengeful" in his description.[67] More described him as having both a "cynical temperament" and a "caustic tongue".[68] Andrade was more sympathetic, but still used the adjectives "difficult", "suspicious", and "irritable" in describing him.[69] In October 1675, the Council of the Royal Society considered a motion to expel him because of an attack he had made on Christiaan Huygens (over scientific priority in watch design) but it did not pass.[70] But, as his biographer Ellen Drake observes, "if one studies the intellectual milieu of the time, the controversies and rivalries of the type in which he was involved seem almost to be the rule rather than the exception. And Hooke's reaction to such controversy involving his own discoveries and inventions seems mild in comparison to the behaviour of some of his contemporaries".[71]

The publication of Hooke's diary in 1935[72] revealed previously unknown details about his social and familial relationships. His biographer Margaret 'Espinasse argued that "the picture which is usually painted of Hooke as a morose... recluse is completely false".[73] He interacted with noted craftsmen such as Thomas Tompion, the clockmaker,[74] and Christopher Cocks (Cox), an instrument maker.[75] He often met Christopher Wren, with whom he shared many interests, and had a lasting friendship with John Aubrey. His diaries also make frequent reference to meetings at coffeehouses and taverns, and to dinners with Robert Boyle. He took tea on many occasions with his lab assistant, Harry Hunt. Although he largely lived alone – apart from the servants who ran his home – his niece Grace Hooke and cousin Tom Giles lived with him for some years as children.[76]

Hooke never married. His diary records that he sexually abused his niece Grace, who was in his custody between the ages of 10 and 17, during her teens,[77][78] and also had sexual relations with several maids and housekeepers.[79][j]

Since childhood, Hooke suffered from migraine, tinnitus, dizziness and bouts of insomnia;[81] he also had a spinal deformity (consistent with a diagnosis of Scheuermann's kyphosis), giving him in middle and later years a "thin and crooked body, over-large head and protruding eyes".[82] Approaching these in the same scientific spirit that he brought to his work, he experimented with self-medication, diligently recording symptoms, substances and effects in his diary. He regularly used sal ammoniac, emetics, laxatives and opiates, which appear to have had an increasing impact on his physical and mental health over time.[83]

On 3 March 1703, Hooke died in London, having been blind and bedridden during the last year of his life. A chest containing £8,000 in money and gold was found in his room at Gresham College.[84][k] His library comprised over 3000 books, in Latin, French and Italian as well as English.[84] Although he had talked of leaving a generous bequest to the Royal Society, which would have given his name to a library, laboratory and lectures, no will was found and the money passed to a cousin, Elizabeth Stephens.[85] He was buried at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate in the City of London,[86] but the precise location of his grave is unknown.


Hooke's role at the Royal Society was to demonstrate experiments from his own methods or at the suggestion of members. Among his earliest demonstrations were discussions of the nature of air, the implosion of glass bubbles which had been sealed with enclosed hot air.[56] He also demonstrated that a dog could be kept alive with its thorax opened, provided air was pumped in and out of its lungs.[87][l] He noted the difference between venous and arterial blood and thus demonstrated that the Pabulum vitae ["food of life"][m] and flammae [flames] were one and the same.[90][91] There were also experiments on the subject of gravity, the falling of objects, the weighing of bodies and measuring of barometric pressure at different heights, and pendulums up to 200 ft long (61 m).[90] 'Espinasse says that Hooke was England's first meteorologist, expressed in his essay "Method for making a history of the weather", in which he demands a thermometer, a hygrometer and a wind gauge.[92][n]


Hooke's drawing of the planet Saturn
Hooke noted the shadows (a and b) cast by both the globe and the rings on each other in this drawing of Saturn
Drawings of the Moon and the Pleiades from Hooke's Micrographia

In May 1664, with a 12 ft (3.7 m) refracting telescope, Hooke observed the Great Red Spot of Jupiter for two hours as it moved across the face of the planet. In March 1665, he published his findings and from them Giovanni Cassini, the Italian astronomer, calculated the rotation period of Jupiter to be nine hours and fifty-five minutes.[93]

One of the more-challenging problems he tackled was the measurement of the distance to a star (other than the Sun). The star chosen was Gamma Draconis and the method to be used was parallax determination.[o] After several months of observing, in 1669, he believed that the desired result had been achieved. It is now known that his equipment was far too imprecise to allow the measurement to succeed.[95]

Hooke's activities in astronomy extended beyond the study of stellar distance. His Micrographia contains illustrations of the Pleiades star cluster as well as of lunar craters. He performed experiments to study how such craters might have formed and concluded that their existence meant that the Moon must have its own gravity, a radical departure from the Aristotlean celestial model of his time.[96] He also was an early observer of the rings of Saturn,[97] and discovered one of the first observed double-star systems, Gamma Arietis, in 1664.[98]

To achieve these discoveries, he needed better instruments than were available at the time. Accordingly he invented a sophisticated universal joint (the Hooke joint) that allowed his instruments to smoothly follow the apparent motion of the observed body, the first clockwork drive to automate the process, and a micrometer screw that allowed him to achieve an precision down to ten seconds of arc.[99][100] Dissatisfied with refracting telescopes, he built the first practical Gregorian telescope to use a silvered glass mirror.[101][102][p]


In 1660, Hooke discovered the law of elasticity which bears his name and which describes the linear variation of tension with extension in an elastic spring. He first described this discovery in the anagram ceiiinosssttuv, whose solution he published in 1678 as Ut tensio, sic vis meaning "As the extension, so the force".[104] His work on elasticity culminated, for practical purposes, in his development of the balance spring or hairspring, which for the first time enabled a portable timepiece – a watch – to keep time with reasonable accuracy. A bitter dispute between Hooke and Christiaan Huygens on the priority of this invention was to continue for centuries after the death of both; but a note dated 23 June 1670 in the journals of the Royal Society,[105] describing a demonstration of a balance-controlled watch before the Royal Society, may favour Hooke's claim to priority.

He first announced his law of elasticity as an anagram. This was a method sometimes used by scientists, such as Hooke, Huygens, Galileo, and others, to establish priority for a discovery without revealing details.[106] He used mechanical analogues to understand more fundamental processes, such as the motion of a spherical pendulum and of a ball in a hollow cone, to demonstrate central force due to gravity,[107] and a hanging chain net with point loads to provide the optimum shape for a dome.[108]

(Despite continuing reports to the contrary,[109] Hooke did not influence Thomas Newcomen's invention of the steam engine: this myth, which originated in an article in the third edition of the "Encyclopædia Britannica", has been found to be mistaken.[110])


While many of his contemporaries (such as Newton) believed in the aether as a medium for transmitting attraction or repulsion between separated celestial bodies,[111] Hooke argued for an attracting principle of gravitation in Micrographia (1665). In a communication to the Royal Society in 1666,[112] he wrote

I will explain a system of the world very different from any yet received. It is founded on the following positions. 1. That all the heavenly bodies have not only a gravitation of their parts to their own proper centre, but that they also mutually attract each other within their spheres of action. 2. That all bodies having a simple motion, will continue to move in a straight line, unless continually deflected from it by some extraneous force, causing them to describe a circle, an ellipse, or some other curve. 3. That this attraction is so much the greater as the bodies are nearer. As to the proportion in which those forces diminish by an increase of distance, I own I have not discovered it....

His 1674 Gresham lecture, An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth by Observations (published 1679), explained that gravitation applied to "all celestial bodies"[113] and restated his three propositions.[114]

Hooke's statements up to 1674 made no mention, however, that an inverse square law applies or might apply to these attractions. His model of gravitation was also not yet universal, though it approached universality more closely than previous hypotheses.[115] He also did not provide accompanying evidence or mathematical demonstration. On these two aspects, he stated in 1674: "Now what these several degrees [of gravitational attraction] are I have not yet experimentally verified" (indicating that he did not yet know what law the gravitation might follow); and as to his whole proposal: "This I only hint at present", "having my self many other things in hand which I would first compleat, and therefore cannot so well attend it" (i.e. "prosecuting this Inquiry").[114]

In November 1679, Hooke initiated a notable exchange of letters with Newton, of which the full text is now published.[116] His ostensible purpose was to tell Newton that he (Hooke) had been appointed to manage the Royal Society's correspondence.[117] He therefore wanted to hear from members about their researches, or their views about the researches of others; and as if to whet Newton's interest, he asked what Newton thought about various matters, giving a whole list, mentioning "compounding the celestial motions of the planets of a direct motion by the tangent and an attractive motion towards the central body", and "my hypothesis of the lawes or causes of springinesse", and then a new hypothesis from Paris about planetary motions (which he described at length), and then efforts to carry out or improve national surveys, the difference of latitude between London and Cambridge, and other items.[118] Newton's reply offered "a fansy of my own" about a terrestrial experiment (not a proposal about celestial motions) which might detect the Earth's motion, by the use of a body first suspended in air and then dropped to let it fall. The main point was to indicate how Newton thought the falling body could experimentally reveal the Earth's motion by its direction of deviation from the vertical, but he went on hypothetically to consider how its motion could continue if the solid Earth had not been in the way (on a spiral path to the centre). Hooke disagreed with Newton's idea of how the body would continue to move. A short further correspondence developed, and towards the end of it, writing on 6 January 1680 to Newton, he communicated his "supposition ... that the Attraction always is in a duplicate proportion to the Distance from the Center Reciprocall, and Consequently that the Velocity will be in a subduplicate proportion to the Attraction and Consequently as Kepler Supposes Reciprocall to the Distance".[119] (His inference about the velocity was actually incorrect.[120])

In 1686, when the first book of Newton's Principia was presented to the Royal Society, Hooke declared that he had given Newton the "notion" of "the rule of the decrease of Gravity, being reciprocally as the squares of the distances from the Center". At the same time (according to Edmond Halley's contemporary report) he agreed that "the Demonstration of the Curves generated thereby" was wholly Newton's.[121]

A recent assessment about the early history of the inverse square law is that "by the late 1660s, the assumption of an 'inverse proportion between gravity and the square of distance' was rather common and had been advanced by a number of different people for different reasons".[122] Newton himself had shown in the 1660s that for planetary motion under a circular assumption, force in the radial direction had an inverse-square relation with distance from the centre.[123] Newton, faced in May 1686 with Hooke's claim to priority on the inverse square law, denied that he was to be credited as author of the idea, giving reasons including the citation of prior work by others before him.[124] Newton also asserted that, even if it had happened that he had first heard of the inverse square proportion from Hooke – which he declared he had not, he would still have some rights to it in view of his mathematical developments and demonstrations. These, he said, enabled observations to be relied on as evidence of its accuracy, while Hooke, without mathematical demonstrations and evidence in favour of the supposition, could only guess (according to Newton) that it was approximately valid "at great distances from the centre".[125]

On the other hand, Newton did accept and acknowledge, in all editions of the Principia, that Hooke (but not exclusively Hooke) had separately appreciated the inverse square law in the solar system. Newton acknowledged Wren, Hooke and Halley in this connection in the Scholium to Proposition 4 in Book 1.[126] Newton also acknowledged (in a letter to Halley) that his correspondence with Hooke in 1679–80 had reawakened his dormant interest in astronomical matters, but that did not mean, according to Newton, that he had told Newton anything new or original: "yet am I not beholden to him for any light into that business but only for the diversion he gave me from my other studies to think on these things & for his dogmaticalness in writing as if he had found the motion in the Ellipsis, which inclined me to try it."[127]

One of the contrasts between the two men was that Newton was primarily a pioneer in mathematical analysis and its applications as well as optical experimentation, while Hooke was a creative experimenter of such great range, that it is not surprising to find that he left some of his ideas, such as those about gravitation, undeveloped. This in turn makes it understandable how in 1759, decades after the deaths of both Newton and Hooke, Alexis Clairaut, mathematical astronomer eminent in his own right in the field of gravitational studies, made his assessment after reviewing what Hooke had published on gravitation. Stephen Peter Rigaud says that it was Clairaut who wrote "L'exemple de Hook & celui de Kepler [serve] à faire voir quelle distance il y a entre une vérité entrevue & une vérité démontrée" [transl. "The example of Hooke and that of Kepler" [serves] "to show what a distance there is between a truth that is glimpsed and a truth that is demonstrated"].[128] I. Bernard Cohen adds "Hooke's claim to the inverse-square law has masked Newton's far more fundamental debt to him, the analysis of curvilinear orbital motion. In asking for too much credit, Hooke effectively denied to himself the credit due him for a seminal idea".[129]


Drawing of one of his first balance springs, attached to a balance wheel, by Christiaan Huygens.

Hooke made important contributions to the science of timekeeping, being intimately involved in the advances of his time; refinement of the pendulum as a better regulator for clocks, precision of clock mechanisms and the balance spring to improve the timekeeping of watches.

Galileo had observed the regularity of a pendulum and Huygens first incorporated it in a clock;[130] in 1668, Hooke demonstrated his new device to keep a pendulum swinging regularly in unsteady conditions.[131] His invention of a tooth-cutting machine enabled a substantial improvement in the accuracy and precision of time-pieces.[131] Waller reported that invention was, by Hooke's death, in constant use among clock makers.[90]

Hooke announced that he conceived of a way to build a marine chronometer to determine longitude.[132][q] and with the help of Boyle and others he attempted to patent it. In the process, He demonstrated a pocket-watch of his own devising, fitted with a coil spring attached to the arbour of the balance. His refusal to accept an escape clause in the proposed exclusive contract for the exploitation of this idea resulted in its being shelved.[132][r]

Hooke developed the principle of the balance spring independently of Huygens, and at least five years beforehand.[133] Huygens published his own work in Journal de Scavans in February 1675 and built the first functioning watch to use a balance spring.[134]


Before I went to bed I sat up till two o’clock in my chamber reading of Mr. Hooke's Microscopicall Observations, the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life.[135]

— Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 21 January 1664/65[a]

In 1663 and 1664, Hooke made his microscopic (and some astronomic) observations, subsequently collated in Micrographia in 1665. His book, describing observations with microscopes and telescopes, as well as original work in biology, contains the earliest recorded observation of a microorganism, the microfungus Mucor.[13][14] He coined the term cell, suggesting plant structure's resemblance to honeycomb cells.[136] The hand-crafted, leather and gold-tooled microscope he designed and used to make the observations for Micrographia, made for him by Christopher Cock in London, is on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Maryland.[7] Hooke's work developed from that of Henry Power (who published his microscopy work in Experimental Philosophy, 1663);[6] in turn, the Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek went on to develop increased magnification and so reveal protozoa, blood cells and spermatazoa.[137][138]

Micrographia also contains his, or perhaps Boyle and his, ideas on combustion. His experiments led him to conclude that combustion involves a substance that is a component of air, a statement with which modern scientists would agree, but that was not understood widely, if at all, in the seventeenth century. He went on to conclude that respiration and combustion involve a specific and limited component of the air.[139] Partington even goes so far as to propose that, if "Hooke had continued his experiments on combustion, it is probable that he would have discovered oxygen".[140]

Palaeontology and geology

One of the observations in Micrographia was of fossil wood, the microscopic structure of which Hooke compared to ordinary wood. This led him to conclude that fossilised objects like petrified wood and fossil shells, such as Ammonites, were the remains of living things that had been soaked in petrifying water laden with minerals.[141] He believed that such fossils provided reliable clues to the past history of life on Earth, and, despite the objections of contemporary naturalists like John Ray (who found the concept of extinction theologically unacceptable), that in some cases they might represent species that had become extinct through some geological disaster.[142] In a series of lectures in 1668, he proposed the (then heretical) idea that the Earth's surface had been formed by volcanoes and earthquakes, and that the latter were responsible for shell fossils being found far above sea level.[143]

In 1835, Charles Lyell, the Scottish geologist and associate of Charles Darwin, wrote of him

The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke M.D.... appeared in 1705, containing 'A Discourse of Earthquakes'... His treatise... is the most philosophical production of that age, in regard to the causes of former changes in the organic and inorganic kingdoms of nature.[144]

— Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology


Another contribution, one of the first of its kind, was his scientific model of human memory. In a 1682 lecture to the Royal Society, Hooke proposed a mechanical analogue model of human memory, which bore little resemblance to the mainly philosophical models by other writers before his.[145] This model addressed the components of encoding, memory capacity, repetition, retrieval, and forgetting – some with surprisingly modern accuracy.[146] According to psychology professor Douglas Hintzman, the model's more interesting points are that it (1) allows for attention and other top-down influences on encoding; (2) it uses resonance to implement parallel, cue-dependent retrieval; (3) it explains memory for recency; (4) it offers a single-system account of repetition and priming, and (5) the power law of forgetting can be derived from the model's assumption in a straightforward way.[146]


On 8 July 1680, Hooke observed the nodal patterns associated with the modes of vibration of glass plates. He ran a bow along the edge of a glass plate covered with flour, and saw the nodal patterns emerge.[147][148] In acoustics, in 1681 he showed the Royal Society that musical tones could be generated from spinning brass cogs cut with teeth in particular proportions.[149]


Church of St Mary Magdalene at Willen, Milton Keynes, designed by Hooke
Detail from Ogily and Morgan's "most accurate Survey of the City of London and Libertyes therof".[150]

Hooke was Surveyor to the City of London and chief assistant to Christopher Wren, in which capacities he helped Wren rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666.[9] He also designed London's Monument to the fire (1672),[151][152][s] Montagu House in Bloomsbury (1674),[153] and the Bethlem Royal Hospital (1674) (which became known as 'Bedlam').[154] Other buildings designed by him include The Royal College of Physicians (1679),[155] Aske's Hospital (1679),[156] Ragley Hall (1680) in Warwickshire,[157] the parish church of St Mary Magdalene (1680) at Willen in Buckinghamshire,[158] and Ramsbury Manor (1681) in Wiltshire.[159] He worked on many of the London churches to be rebuilt after the fire, generally subcontracted by Wren; from 1671 to 1696, Wren's office paid him £2,820 in fees,[t] more than he had ever earned from his Royal Society and Cutler Lectureship posts.[160]

Wren and he both being keen astronomers, the Monument was designed to serve a scientific function as a telescope for observing transits, though his characteristically precise measurements after completion showed that the movement of the column in the wind made it unusable for this purpose.[161] The legacy of this can be observed in the construction of the spiral staircase, which has no central column, and in the observation chamber which remains in place below ground level. He also collaborated with Wren on the latter's design for St Paul's Cathedral: specifically it was he who determined that the ideal shape an arch is an inverted catenary and thence that a circular series of such arches makes an ideal shape for a dome: it is his principle that crowns the cathedral.[108]

In the reconstruction after the Great Fire, Hooke proposed redesigning London's streets on a grid pattern with wide boulevards and arteries,[162] a pattern subsequently used in Haussmann's renovation of Paris and in many American cities. (Wren and others also submitted proposals.) However the King decided that both the prospective cost of building and compensation, together with the need to restore trade and population in short order, meant that the city would be rebuilt on the original property lines.[163] Hooke was given the task of surveying the ruins to identify foundations, street edges and property boundaries. He was closely involved with drafting an Act of Common Council (April 1667), which set out the process by which the original foundations would be formally recognised and certificated.[164] Lisa Jardine writes "in the four weeks from the 4th of October, he helped map the fire-damaged area, began compiling a Land Information System for London, and drew up building regulations for an Act of Parliament to govern the rebuilding".[165] Stephen Inwood adds "the surveyors' reports, which were generally written by Hooke, show an admirable ability to get to the nub of intricate neighbourly squabbles, and to produce a crisp and judicious recommendation from a tangle of claims and counter-claims".[166] He also had to measure and certify land compulsorily purchased for the planned road widening, so that compensation could be paid.[167] In 1670, he was appointed "Surveyor of the Royal Works".[168] Together with John Ogilby (a Scottish cartographer and printer) his precise and detailed surveys led to production in 1677 of a large-scale map of London,[150] the first known to be to a specific scale (1:1200).[169]


Portrait conjectured to be Hooke,[170] but almost certainly Jan Baptist van Helmont[171]

No authenticated portrait of Robert Hooke exists. This situation has sometimes been attributed to the heated conflicts between Hooke and Newton, although his biographer Allan Chapman rejects as a myth the claims that Newton or his acolytes had deliberately destroyed his portrait.[172] German antiquarian and scholar Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach visited the Royal Society in 1710 and his account of his visit specifically mentions him being shown the portraits of 'Boyle and Hoock' (which were said to be good likenesses), but while Boyle's portrait survives, Hooke's has evidently been lost.[10][173] In Hooke's time, the Royal Society met at Gresham College, but within a few months of his death Newton became the Society's president and plans were laid for a new meeting place. When the move to new quarters finally was made a few years later, in 1710, this was the only portrait that went missing,[174] and has yet to be found. His diary suggests that he sat for a portrait by renowned artist Mary Beale,[175] so it may be that such a portrait did at some time exist; conversely, as Chapman observes, Waller's extensively illustrated Posthumous works of Robert Hooke published shortly after his death does not have any portrait of him, as might be expected.[172]

Two contemporary written descriptions of his appearance have survived. The first was recorded by his close friend John Aubrey, who described him in middle age and at the height of his creative powers:

He is but of midling stature, something crooked, pale faced, and his face but little below, but his head is lardge, his eie full and popping, and not quick; a grey eie. He haz a delicate head of haire, browne, and of an excellent moist curle. He is and ever was temperate and moderate in dyet, etc.

— Brief Lives[8]

The second is a rather unflattering description of him as an old man, written by Richard Waller in 1705:

As to his Person he was but despicable, being very crooked, tho' I have heard from himself, and others, that he was strait till about 16 Years of Age when he first grew awry, by frequent practising, with a Turn-Lath ... He was always very pale and lean, and laterly nothing but Skin and Bone, with a Meagre Aspect, his Eyes grey and full, with a sharp ingenious Look whilst younger; his nose but thin, of a moderate height and length; his Mouth meanly wide, and upper lip thin; his Chin sharp, and Forehead large; his Head of a middle size. He wore his own Hair of a dark Brown colour, very long and hanging neglected over his Face uncut and lank...

— The posthumous works of Robert Hooke ...[64]

Time magazine published a portrait, supposedly of Hooke, on 3 July 1939. However, when the source was traced by Ashley Montagu, it was found to lack a verifiable connection to him. Moreover, Montagu found that two contemporary written descriptions of his appearance agreed with one another, but that neither matched the portrait in Time.[176]

In 2003, historian Lisa Jardine conjectured that a recently discovered portrait was of Hooke,[170] but this proposal was disproved by William B. Jensen of the University of Cincinnati who identified the subject as the Flemish scholar Jan Baptist van Helmont.[171]

Other possible likenesses of him include the following:

  • A seal used by Hooke displays an unusual profile portrait of a man's head, which some have argued portrays him.[172]
  • The engraved frontispiece to the 1728 edition of Chambers' Cyclopedia shows a drawing of a bust of Robert Hooke.[177] The extent to which the drawing is based on an actual work of art is unknown.
  • A memorial window existed at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate in London, but it was a formulaic rendering, not a likeness.[172] The window was destroyed in the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing.
Greer's imagined portrait

In 2003, Rita Greer, an amateur painter from the Isle of Wight, embarked on a project to memorialise Hooke. Her project aimed to produce credible images of him, both painted and drawn, that she believes match the descriptions of him by Aubrey and Waller. Her images of him, free to use under Free Art License, have been used for TV programmes in UK and US, in books, magazines and for PR.[172]

In 2019, Dr. Larry Griffing, an associate professor at Texas A&M University, conjectured that a portrait by Mary Beale – of an unknown sitter and referred to as Portrait of a Mathematician (shown here and at the top of this article) – was actually Hooke, noting that the physical features of the sitter in the portrait match his. The figure points to a drawing of elliptical motion which appears to match an unpublished manuscript created by him. The painting also includes an orrery depicting the same principle. Griffing believes that buildings included in the image are of Lowther Castle, now in Cumbria, and specifically its Church of St Michael. The church was renovated under one of his architectural commissions, which Beale would have known from her own extensive body of work for the Lowther family.[1] Griffing conjectures that the painting would once have been owned by the Royal Society, but was purposefully abandoned when Newton as its president moved the Society's official residence in 1710.[1] Griffing's analysis has been questioned by Dr. Christopher Whittaker (School of Education, University of Durham, England), who believes it more likely to be of Isaac Barrow;[3] in a response to Whittaker,[2] Griffing reaffirmed his deduction.


Hooke memorial plaque in Westminster Abbey


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ a b c These dates are according to the Julian calendar, which was still in use in England at the time. His date of death raises an additional complication: formally the civil year began on 25 March although common practice then as now was to start the year on 1 January. Thus his legal date of death was 3 March 1702 but 3 March 1703 in common usage and as shown here: according to the dual dating practice at the time it would be recorded in church records as 3 March 1702/3.[4] Wikipedia follows the convention adopted by most modern historical writing of retaining the dates according to the Julian calendar but taking the year as starting on 1 January rather than 25 March. (According to the Gregorian calendar used in most of the rest of Europe, he was born on 28 July 1635 and died on 14 March 1703. The deviation between the calendars grew from ten to eleven days between his birth and his death because the Julian calendar had a 29 February 1700 but the Gregorian calendar did not. For a more detailed explanation, see Calendar (New Style) Act 1750.)
  2. ^ "SRS" means "Secretary of the Royal Society". He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. The "MD" was an honorary degree conferred by Oxford University.[26]
  3. ^ Aubrey says £100[34] but the will (Hampshire Record Office 1648B09/1) clearly states £40.[35] Adjusted for retail price inflation, £50 in 1648 equates to about £7,000 today;[36] Gribbin and Gribbin estimate its purchasing power as rather closer to £20,000.[33]
  4. ^ Gribbin and Gribbin remark that, given the Puritan laws at the time, music in church was not permitted. Furthermore, the Mr Goodman to whom Hooke was nominally servitor was not in fact an undergraduate at the time. Thus he was not required to perform any services in return.[41]
  5. ^ A chance surviving copy of Willis's pioneering De anima brutorum, a gift from the author, was chosen by Hooke from Wilkins's library on his death as a memento at John Tillotson's invitation. This book is now in the Wellcome Library.[43]
  6. ^ Gribbin and Gribbin say that "it is now widely accepted that it was Hooke who discovered what is now known as 'Boyle's Law' of gasses".[51] Boyle published the Law in his 1662 book but did not claim it as his own.[50] It is known that Hooke had a particularly keen eye, and was an adept mathematician, neither of which applied to Boyle. Indeed Hooke taught Boyle the Elements of Euclid and Descartes's Philosophy.[8]
  7. ^ Subsequently renamed "The Royal Society of London for Promoting Natural Knowledge"
  8. ^ About £13,700 today, indexed by retail prices rather than earnings.
  9. ^ Cutler proved unreliable and Hooke had to sue him following years to secure payment.[58] Following Cutler's death, Hooke enlisted the aid of friends of the Cutler family, including Master of The Haberdashers Company Sir Richard Levett (for whom Hooke was separately involved in a building commission) to help recover the funds owed by Cutler.[29]
  10. ^ Inwood considers it unlikely that Hooke was father to a daughter by Grace, that the culprit was Sir Robert Holmes, Governor of the Isle of Wight.[80] Jardine concurs.[78]
  11. ^ About £1,400,000 today.
  12. ^ Hooke was distressed by the experience of vivisection. In a letter to Boyle, he wrote "I shall hardly be induced to make further trials of this kind, because of the torture of the creature".[88]
  13. ^ "Here then we observe a striking similarity between combustion and animal respiration. The ancients seem to have had a more accurate idea of respiration than most of the philosophers who followed them. They supposed that the air contained a principle proper for the support and nourishment of life, which they called pabulum vitae" — Thomas Garnett, Popular lectures on zoonomia, or the laws of animal life, in health and disease (1804).[89] We now know this to be Oxygen.
  14. ^ Hooke described a wind speed gauge in Method, but he did not invent it. See Anemometer § Plate anemometers.
  15. ^ Gamma Draconis was the same star James Bradley used in 1725 in discovering the aberration of light.[94]
  16. ^ Between Gregory's initial effort and Hooke's improvement, Newton had built a reflecting telescope – but, as its mirror was made from polished steel, it tarnished and rapidly became useless.[103]
  17. ^ As Gemma Frisius had already observed, each four minutes of time difference is equivalent to one degree of longitude difference. The latitude is easily determined by sextant.
  18. ^ His exclusivity would lapse as soon as another made any improvement to it which, he argued, would be easy to do.
  19. ^ The plaque on the structure that attributes it to Wren is not correct.[152]
  20. ^ About £515,000 today.



  1. ^ a b c Griffing (2020).
  2. ^ a b Griffing (2021).
  3. ^ a b Whittaker (2021).
  4. ^ a b Singer (1976), p. 116.
  5. ^ Singer (1976), p. 115.
  6. ^ a b 'Espinasse (1956), p. 54.
  7. ^ a b c Gase (2019).
  8. ^ a b c d e Aubrey (1898), p. 411.
  9. ^ a b Inwood (2003), p. 5.
  10. ^ a b Chapman (1996).
  11. ^ a b c d O'Connor & Robertson (2002).
  12. ^ Harsch (2006), pp. 867–9.
  13. ^ a b Gest (2004).
  14. ^ a b Gest (2009).
  15. ^ Davidson (2015).
  16. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 257, 258.
  17. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), pp. 140, 141.
  18. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 299.
  19. ^ Aubrey (1898), pp. 413–415.
  20. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 150.
  21. ^ Chisholm (1911).
  22. ^ a b Drake (2006), p. 135.
  23. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 3.
  24. ^ Drake (1996), p. 96.
  25. ^ Waller (1705), p. i.
  26. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 214.
  27. ^ Ward (1740), p. 169.
  28. ^ Aubrey (1898).
  29. ^ a b Jardine (2003), p. 23.
  30. ^ Martin (2000).
  31. ^ Drake (1996), p. 10.
  32. ^ a b Waller (1705), p. ii.
  33. ^ a b Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 4.
  34. ^ a b Aubrey (1898), p. 410.
  35. ^ a b Nakajima (1994).
  36. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  37. ^ Waller (1705), p. iii.
  38. ^ a b Pugliese (2004).
  39. ^ Jardine (2003), pp. 87, 88.
  40. ^ a b Jardine (2003), p. 65.
  41. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 7.
  42. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 10.
  43. ^ Hooke (1673).
  44. ^ Syfret (1948), p. 78.
  45. ^ Waller (1705), p. iv.
  46. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 11.
  47. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 81.
  48. ^ a b Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 15.
  49. ^ Fulton (1960), p. 123.
  50. ^ a b Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 19.
  51. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. xiii.
  52. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 19, 20.
  53. ^ Robinson (1935), p. xx.
  54. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 96.
  55. ^ Jardine (2003), pp. 93, 94.
  56. ^ a b c Inwood (2003), p. 28.
  57. ^ Waller (1705), p. xi.
  58. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 29.
  59. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 30.
  60. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 100.
  61. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 241.
  62. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 247.
  63. ^ Drake (1996), p. 5.
  64. ^ a b Waller (1705), p. xxvii.
  65. ^ Berry (1898), p. 221.
  66. ^ Sullivan (1938), pp. 35–37.
  67. ^ Manuel (1968), p. 138.
  68. ^ More (1934), pp. 94–95.
  69. ^ Andrarde (1950), pp. 56–57.
  70. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 199, 200.
  71. ^ Drake (1996), p. 104.
  72. ^ Robinson (1935).
  73. ^ 'Espinasse (1956), p. 106.
  74. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 145.
  75. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 159.
  76. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 227.
  77. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 140.
  78. ^ a b Jardine (2003), p. 257.
  79. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 138–140.
  80. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 252.
  81. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 133–138.
  82. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 10.
  83. ^ Jardine (2003), pp. 216, 217.
  84. ^ a b Inwood 2003, p. 4.
  85. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 3.
  86. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 218.
  87. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 43.
  88. ^ 'Espinasse (1956), p. 52.
  89. ^ Garnett (1804), p. 28.
  90. ^ a b c Waller (1705), p. ix.
  91. ^ Long Hall (1976), p. 156.
  92. ^ 'Espinasse (1956), p. 50.
  93. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 51.
  94. ^ Eppenstein (1911), pp. 54–61.
  95. ^ Hirshfeld (2001), pp. 144–149.
  96. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 57.
  97. ^ Alexander (1962), pp. 108–109.
  98. ^ Aitken (1935), p. 1.
  99. ^ Jardine (2003), pp. 44, 45.
  100. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 82.
  101. ^ Atkin (n.d.).
  102. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 98.
  103. ^ Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), p. 96.
  104. ^ Hooke (1678).
  105. ^ Oldenburg (1670), p. 81.
  106. ^ Nielsen (2008), p. Back.
  107. ^ Rousseaux, Coullet & Gilli (2006), pp. 531–540.
  108. ^ a b Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), pp. 80, 81.
  109. ^ Rosen (2012), pp. 74, 331: for example
  110. ^ Jenkins (1936), pp. 1–11.
  111. ^ Turnbull (1959), p. 404–406, 150 Newton to Oldenburg.
  112. ^ Stewart (1816), p. 434.
  113. ^ Hooke (1679), p. page 2, 3.
  114. ^ a b Hooke (1679), p. 27, 28.
  115. ^ Wilson 1989, p. 239.
  116. ^ Turnbull (1960), pp. 297–314, 431–448.
  117. ^ Turnbull (1960), p. 297, document #235.
  118. ^ Turnbull (1960), p. 297, Document #235.
  119. ^ Turnbull (1960), p. 309, document #239.
  120. ^ Wilson 1989, p. 244.
  121. ^ Turnbull (1960), p. 431, document #285.
  122. ^ Gal (2002), p. 9.
  123. ^ Whiteside (1991), pp. 13–20.
  124. ^ Turnbull (1960), pp. 431–448.
  125. ^ Turnbull (1960), p. 436,437, document #288.
  126. ^ Newton (1729), p. 66.
  127. ^ Turnbull (1960), p. 447, document #291.
  128. ^ Rigaud (1838), p. p. 66, cited in Ball (1893), p. 69
  129. ^ Cohen (1985), p. 221.
  130. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 31.
  131. ^ a b Inwood (2003), pp. 101.
  132. ^ a b Inwood (2003), pp. 31, 32.
  133. ^ Sample (2006).
  134. ^ Hall (1978), pp. 261–81.
  135. ^ Pepys 1665, 21 January 1664/65.
  136. ^ Hooke (1665), p. 113.
  137. ^ 'Espinasse (1956), p. 79.
  138. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 62, 63.
  139. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 163.
  140. ^ Partington (1951), pp. 78–80.
  141. ^ Rudwick (1976), p. 54.
  142. ^ Bowler (1992), pp. 118–119.
  143. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 112.
  144. ^ Lyell (1832), pp. 76, 77.
  145. ^ Singer (1976), p. 126.
  146. ^ a b Hintzman (2003).
  147. ^ McVeigh (2011).
  148. ^ Daintith & Gjertsen (1999), p. 101.
  149. ^ Greated (2001).
  150. ^ a b Ogilby & Morgan (1677).
  151. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 130.
  152. ^ a b Gribbin & Gribbin (2017), pp. 76, 77.
  153. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 123.
  154. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 131.
  155. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 122.
  156. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 388, 389.
  157. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 285.
  158. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 370.
  159. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 288.
  160. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 125.
  161. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 205.
  162. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 89.
  163. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 90.
  164. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 154.
  165. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 147.
  166. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 93.
  167. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 156.
  168. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 149.
  169. ^ Inwood (2003), pp. 131, 132.
  170. ^ a b Jardine (2003), pp. 15–19.
  171. ^ a b Jensen (2004), pp. 263–268.
  172. ^ a b c d e Chapman (2005), Appendix.
  173. ^ Inwood (2003), p. 411.
  174. ^ Gribbin (2003), p. 283.
  175. ^ Jardine (2003), p. 18.
  176. ^ Montagu (1941), pp. 15–17.
  177. ^ She-philosopher (2022).
  178. ^ Schmadel (2003), p. 295.
  179. ^ BSCB (2014).


  • Aitken, Robert G. (1935). The Binary Stars (Second ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 557197376.
  • Alexander, A. F. O'D. (1962). The Planet Saturn. London: Faber and Faber Limited. OCLC 8006738.
  • Andrarde, E. N. C. (1950). Isaac Newton. New York: Chanticleer Press. OCLC 1154221048.
  • Atkin, Lynn (n.d.). "Gregorian Telescope". History of Science Museum, University of Oxford. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  • Aubrey, John (1898) [1696]. Clark, Andrew (ed.). Brief Lives. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 409–416.

Further reading

  • Andrade, E. N. De C. (1950). "Wilkins Lecture: Robert Hooke". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 137 (887): 153–187. Bibcode:1950RSPSB.137..153A. doi:10.1098/rspb.1950.0029. JSTOR 82545. PMID 15430319. S2CID 162828757.
  • Bennett, Jim; Michael Cooper; Michael Hunter; Lisa Jardine (2003). London's Leonardo: The Life and Work of Robert Hooke. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852579-0.
  • Chapman, Allan; Kent, Paul, eds. (2005). Robert Hooke and the English Renaissance. Gravewing. ISBN 978-0-85244-587-7.
  • Cooper, Michael (1997). "Robert Hooke's Work as Surveyor for the City of London in the Aftermath of the Great Fire. Part One: Robert Hooke's First Surveys for the City of London". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 51 (2): 161–174. JSTOR 531983.
  • Cooper, Michael (1998). "Robert Hooke's Work as Surveyor for the City of London in the Aftermath of the Great Fire. Part Two: Certification of Areas of Ground Taken Away for Streets and Other New Works". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 52 (1): 25–38. JSTOR 532074.
  • Cooper, Michael (1998). "Robert Hooke's Work as Surveyor for the City of London in the Aftermath of the Great Fire. Part Three: Settlement of Disputes and Complaints Arising from Rebuilding". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 52 (2): 205–220. JSTOR 531857.
  • Cooper, Michael (2003). 'A More Beautiful City': Robert Hooke and the Rebuilding of London after the Great Fire. Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7509-2959-2.
  • Cooper, Michael; Michael Hunter (2006). Robert Hooke: Tercentennial Studies. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate.
  • Gunther, Robert, ed. (1930). Early Science in Oxford. Vol. 6: The life and works of Robert Hooke. privately printed. Gunther's Early Science in Oxford devotes five of its fourteen volumes to Hooke.
  • Hall, A. R. (1951). "Robert Hooke and Horology". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 8 (2): 167–177. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1951.0016. S2CID 145726594.
  • Hart, Vaughan (2020). Christopher Wren: In Search of Eastern Antiquity. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-1913107079.
  • Stevenson, Christine (February 2005). "Robert Hooke, Monuments and Memory". Art History. 28 (1): 43–73. doi:10.1111/j.0141-6790.2005.00453.x.

See also

External links

14 Annotations

First Reading

dirk  •  Link

Hooke on the plague


On “Exploring our archives” (the “Blog from the Royal Society, the UK and Commonwealth academy of science”) there is an item that refers to the “Waller Collection from Uppsala University”, stating that

“It includes a letter from Hooke to his friend the MP, natural philosopher and antiquary James Long dated 1688 in which he discusses the auctioning of books, sends a new history of China along with some ‘very considerable relations’ of earthquakes in Peru, China, Spain, and India. Hooke puts forward a theory that ‘the Poysenous Exhalations that Issue from such Eruptions may have caused those Distempers in the seasons and constitutions of the air and euen of the helth of People, though in Countrys very Remote, which haue accompanyd them or been always contemporary’. He goes on to speculate that such noxious fumes might have contributed to the ‘Aguish distemper’ then affecting people in England and France, as well as to the plague spreading in Germany. Hooke was of course correct to assume that the effects of earthquakes could have long-term effects on public health through environmental contamination, although inaccurate in linking them to the plague.”…

JWB  •  Link

"One conclusion based on the evidence stands out. Hooke was recognized as a person dependant upon others, as a person of at best compromised freedom of action, of ambiguous autonomy, and of doubful integrity."

Sjoerd  •  Link

The Isle Of Wight History site has a very detailed piece on Hooke's relations with his servants and with his niece Grace Hooke.…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

HOOKE, ROBERT (1635-1703), experimental philosopher; educated at Westminster under Busby and at Christ Church, Oxford; M.A., 1663; assisted Thomas Willis in his chemistry and Robert Boyle with his air-pump; elected curator of experiments to Royal Society, 1662; F.R.S., 1663; secretary, 1677-82; Gresham professor of geometry, 1665; as surveyor of London designed Montague House, Bethlehem Hospital and College of Physicians; in his 'Micrographia' (1665) pointed out real nature of combustion; proposed to measure force of gravity by swinging of pendulum, 1666; showed experimentally that centre of gravity of earth and moon is the point describing an ellipse round the sun; in astronomy discovered fifth star in Orion, 1664, inferred rotation of Jupiter, 1664, first observed a star by daylight, and made earliest attempts (1669) at telescopic determination of parallax of a fixed star; in optics helped Newton by hints; first applied spiral spring to regulate watches; expounded true theory of elasticity and kinetic hypothesis of gases, 1678; his anticipation of law of inverse squares admitted by Newton; first asserted true principle of the arch; constructed first Gregorian telescope, 1674; described a system of telegraphy, 1684; invented marine barometer and other instruments; posthumous works edited by R. Waller, 1705, and Derham, 1726.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Bill  •  Link

With Hooke then through your microscope take aim,
Where, like the new Comptroller, all men laugh,
To see a tall louse brandish a white staff;
---The Last Instructions to a Painter About the Dutch Wars, 1667. Andrew Marvel.

Bill  •  Link

"What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
---Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke, 1676

Some have suggested that this is actually a veiled insult to Hooke, who was described as a man of "crooked and low stature." Probably not so since Newton seems to be including Descartes as a "Giant" also.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Robert Hooke
In Our Time
Listen in pop-out player -- 43 minutes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work or Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who worked for Robert Boyle and was curator of experiments at the Royal Society. The engraving of a flea, above, is taken from his Micrographia which caused a sensation when published in 1665. Sometimes remembered for his disputes with Newton, he studied the planets with telescopes and snowflakes with microscopes. He was an early proposer of a theory of evolution, discovered light diffraction with a wave theory to explain it and felt he was rarely given due credit for his discoveries.…

Elyse  •  Link

Claire Tomalin says (in the context of Pepys's relationship with female servants): "The scientist and architect Robert Hooke, secretary to the Royal Society and well known to Pepys, kept a diary in the 1670s, much briefer but in some respects as frank as Pepys's, which revealed that he regarded the young female inmates of his house as his natural prey; he expected to, and did, have sexual relations with several of his maids, and later also with his niece, who came to him as a schoolgirl and progressed to be his housekeeper. Hooke was a man with poor health and an unpleasing physical appearance, but that hardly explains away his domestic habits."

Interesting review of a Hooke biography here:…

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Robert Hooke's Wiki bio says:
"An impoverished scientific inquirer in young adulthood, he became one of the most important scientists of his day and found wealth and esteem by performing over half of the property surveys after London's great fire of 1666 and assisting in the city's rapid reconstruction."

Elsewhere I found this description:
"In the Great Fire of London, [JOHN] Ogilby claimed, probably with some exaggeration, that he lost his entire stock of books valued at some £3,000, as well as his shop and house, leaving him worth just £5. ... As he sought to restore his fortunes, Ogilby was already looking in new directions.
"The initial opportunity he seized on was the reconstruction of London’s burnt-out centre. He secured appointment as a “sworn viewer”, whose duty was to establish the property boundaries as they existed before the Fire. Ogilby was assisted in the project by his step-grandson, William Morgan, and by a number of professional surveyors.
"The result was an outstanding plan of London, on a scale of 100 ft. to an inch, on 20 sheets, although it was not printed until after Ogilby’s death."……

You can see the map at…
'In the aftermath of the Great Fire, he became a “sworn viewer” charged with surveying the ruins. Within six years, Ogilby, who had no previous experience of surveying, was putting together “the most accurate Survey of the City of London and Libertyes therof that has ever been done.” In 1671 he was appointed royal cosmographer.'

London was lucky to have such talent at its disposal.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.





  • Apr