Biography:Robert Hooke FRS
; 28 July [O.S.
18 July] 1635 – 3 March 1703) was an English natural philosopher
, architect and polymath
His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666
, but eventually becoming ill and party to jealous intellectual disputes. These issues may have contributed to his relative historical obscurity.
He was at one time simultaneously the curator of experiments of the Royal Society
and a member of its council, Gresham Professor of Geometry
and a Surveyor to the City of London after the Great Fire of London, in which capacity he appears to have performed more than half of all the surveys after the fire. He was also an important architect of his time – though few of his buildings now survive and some of those are generally misattributed – and was instrumental in devising a set of planning controls for London whose influence remains today. Allan Chapman
has characterised him as "England's Leonardo
's Early Science in Oxford
, a history of science in Oxford during the Protectorate, Restoration and Age of Enlightenment, devotes five of its fourteen volumes to Hooke.
Hooke studied at Wadham College
during the Protectorate
where he became one of a tightly knit group of ardent Royalists
led by John Wilkins
. Here he was employed as an assistant to Thomas Willis
and to Robert Boyle
, for whom he built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's gas law
experiments. He built some of the earliest Gregorian telescopes
and observed the rotations of Mars and Jupiter. In 1665 he inspired the use of microscopes for scientific exploration with his book, Micrographia
. Based on his microscopic observations of fossils, Hooke was an early proponent of biological evolution
He investigated the phenomenon of refraction
, deducing the wave theory of light
, and was the first to suggest that matter expands when heated and that air is made of small particles separated by relatively large distances. He performed pioneering work in the field of surveying and map-making and was involved in the work that led to the first modern plan-form
map, though his plan for London on a grid system was rejected in favour of rebuilding along the existing routes. He also came near to an experimental proof that gravity
follows an inverse square law
, and hypothesised that such a relation governs the motions of the planets, an idea which was subsequently developed by Newton.
Much of Hooke's scientific work was conducted in his capacity as curator of experiments of the Royal Society
, a post he held from 1662, or as part of the household of Robert Boyle.