Robert Hooke

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Portrait of Robert Hooke
by Rita Greer 2004, based on descriptions by Aubrey and Waller

Robert Hooke (July 18, 1635 – March 3, 1703) was an English polymath, to include inventor, microscopist, architect, surveyor, professor of geometry, natural philosopher and chemist. He was the first Curator of Experiments for the Royal Society and is noted for Hooke's law, his contributions to the development of the vacuum pump, the improved accuracy of the portable watch through the invention of the balance spring, for his microscopy, as author and illustrator of Micrographia, being the first to use the term cell, and as Surveyor to the City of London and chief assistant to Christopher Wren, in the reconstruction efforts following the Great Fire of London.

See also: Micrographia


  • At these meetings, which were about the year 1655, divers experiments were suggested, discoursed, and tried with various successes, though no other account was taken of them but what particular persons perhaps did for the help of their own memories; so that many excellent things have been lost. Some few only by the kindness of the authors have since been made public. Among these may be reckoned the Honourable Mr Boyle's Pneumatic Engine and Experiments, first printed in the year 1660; for in 1658 or 1659 I continued and perfected the air-pump for Mr Boyle, having first seen a contrivance for that purpose made for the same honourable person by Mr Gratorix, which was too gross to perform any great matter.
    • Hooke's Diary, as quoted by Alexander Bryson, F.S.A., Scotland, "Exposition of the Mechanical Inventions of Dr Robert Hooke." The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Vol. 4 (1856) pp. 13-14
Hooke's Microscope
  • Nor is this kind of Texture peculiar to Cork onely; for upon examination with my Microscope, I have found that the pith of an Elder, or almost any other Tree, the inner pulp or pith of the Cany hollow stalks of several other Vegetables: as of Fennel, Carrets, Daucus, Bur-docks, Teasels, Fearn, some kinds of Reeds &c., have much such a kind of Schematisme, as I have lately shewn that of Cork, save onely that here the pores are rang'd the long-ways, or the same ways with the length of the Cane, whereas in Cork they are transverse.
    The pith also that fills that part of the stalk of a Feather that is above the Quil, has much such a kind of texture, save onely that which way foever I set this light substance, the pores seem'd to be cut transversly, so that I guess this pith which fills the Feather, not to consist of abundance of long pores separated with Diaphragms, as Cork does, but to be a kind of solid or hardned froth, or a congeries of very small bubbles consolidated in that form, into a pretty stiff as well as tough concrete, and that each Cavern, Bubble, or Cell, is distinctly separate from any of the rest, without any kind of hole in the encompassing films, so that I could no more blow through a piece of this kinde of substance, then I could through a piece of Cork, or the found pith of an Elder.
    • Micrographia (1667) p. 115
  • By the means of Telescopes, there is nothing so far distant but may be represented to our view; and by the help of Microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visible World discovered to the understanding. By this means the Heavens are open’d, and a vast number of new Stars, and new Motions, and new Productions appear in them, to which all the ancient Astronomers were utterly Strangers.
    • Micrographia (1667), preface
  • 'I should here have described some Clocks and Time-keepers of great use, nay absolute necessity in these and many other Astronomical observations, but that I reserve them for some attempts that are hereafter to follow, about the various wayes I have tryed, not without good success of improving Clocks and Watches and adapting them for various uses, as for accurating Astronomy, completing the Tables of the fixt stars to Seconds, discovery of Longitude, regulating Navigation and Geography, detecting the properties and effects of motions for promoting secret and swift conveyance and correspondence, and many other considerable scrutinies of nature: And shall only for the present hint that I have in some of my foregoing observations discovered some new Motions even in the Earth it self, which perhaps were not dreamt of before, which I shall hereafter more at large describe, when further tryalls have more fully confirmed and compleated these beginnings. At which time also I shall explaine a Systeme of the World, differing in many particulars from any yet known, answering in all things to the common Rules of Mechanicall Motions: This depends upon three Suppositions. First, that all Cœlestial Bodies whatsoever, have an attraction or gravitating power towards their own Centers, whereby they attract not only their own parts, and keep them, from flying from them, as we may observe the Earth to do, but that they do also attract all the other Cœlestial Bodies that are within the sphere of their activity; and consequently that not only the Sun and the Moon have an influence upon the body and motion of the Earth, and the Earth upon them, but that Mercury also, Venus, Mars, Saturne, and Jupiter by their attractive powers, have a considerable influence upon its motion as in the same manner the corresponding attractive power of the Earth hath a considerable influence upon every one of their motions also. The second supposition is this, That all bodys whatsoever that are put into direct and simple motion, will so continue to move forward in a streight line, till they are by some other effectual powers deflected and bent into a Motion describing a Circle, Ellipsis, or some other more compounded Curve Line. The third supposition is, That these attractive powers are so much the more powerful in operating, by how much nearer the body wrought upon is to their own Centers. Now what these several degrees are I have not yet experimentally verified;'—But these degrees and proportions of the power of attraction in the celestiall bodys and motions, were communicated to Mr. Newton by R. Hooke in the yeare 1678, by letters, as will plainely appear both by the coppys of the said letters, and the letters of Mr. Newton in answer to them, which are both in the custody of the said R. H., both which also were read before the Royall Society at their publique meeting, as appears by the Journall book of the said Society.—'but it is a notion which if fully prosecuted as it ought to be, will mightily assist the astronomer to reduce all the Cœlestiall motions to a certaine rule, which I doubt will never be done true without it. He that understands the natures of the Circular Pendulum and Circular Motion, will easily understand the whole ground of this Principle, and will know where to find direction in nature for the true stating thereof. This I only hint at present to such as have ability and opportunity of prosecuting this Inquiry, and are not wanting of Industry for observing and calculating, wishing heartily such may be found, having my self many other things in hand which I would first compleat, and therefore cannot so well attend it. But this I durst promise the Undertaker, that he will find all the great Motions of the World to be influenced by this Principle, and that the true understanding thereof will be the true perfection of Astronomy.'
  • The Reason of the present Animadversions. ...How far Hevelius has proceeded. That his instruments do not much exceed Ticho. The bigness, Sights and Divisions, not considerably differing. Ticho not ignorant of his new way of Division. ...
    That so great curiosity as Hevelius strives for is needless without the use of Telescopic Sights, the power of the naked eye being limited. That no one part of an Instrument should be more perfect than another. ...
    That if Hevelius could have been prevail'd on by the Author to have used Telescopic Sights, his observations might have been 40 times more exact than they are.
    That Hevelius his Objections against Telescopic sights are of no validity; but the Sights without Telescopes cannot distinguish a less angle then half a Minute.
    That an Instrument of 3 foot Radius with Telescopes, will do more then one of 3 score foot Radius with common Sights, the eye being unable to distinguish. This is proved by the undiscernableness of spots in the Moon, and by an Experiment with Lines on a paper, by which a Standard is made of the power of the eye. ...
    A Conclusion of the Animadversions. That the learn'd World is obllig'd to Hevelius for what he hath done, but would have more, if he had used other instruments.
    That the Animadvertor both contrived some hundreds of Instruments, each of very great accurateness for taking Angles, Levels, &c. and a particular Arithmetical lnstrument for performing all Operations in Arithmetick, with the greatest ease, swiftness and certainty imaginable.
    That the Reader may be the more certain of this, the Author describes an Instrument for taking Angles in the Heavens
  • Having now retrieved a little more of leasure, both for Delineation and Description, for a further elucidation of what I have said, I shall make it my third Attempt, to explain;
    First, A Helioscope to look upon the body of the Sun, without any offence to the Observers eye.
    Secondly, A way of shortening reflective and refractive Telescopes.
    Thirdly, A way of using a Glass of any length, without moving the Tube.
    Fourthly, An Instrument for taking the Diameters of the Sun, Moon and Planets, or for taking any other Distances, to five or ten Degrees, to the certainty of a Second. ...
    Fifthly, An Instrument for describing all manner of Dials, by the tangent projection.
    Sixthly, The uses thereof;
    1. For adjusting the Hand of a Clock, so as to make it move in the shadow of a Dial, whose style is parallel to the Axis: Or,
    2. In the Azimuth of any Celestial Body, that is, in the shadow of the upright, or any other way inclining Style, upon any plain.
    3. For making a Hand move according to the true æquation of Time.
    4. For making all manner of Elliptical Dials, in Mr. Foster's way, &c.
    5. For communicating a circular motion in a Curve Line, without any shaking: And for divers other excellent purposes.
  • The true Mathematical and Mechanical Form of all manner of Arches for building with the true butment necessary to each of them, a Problem which no Architectonick Writer hath ever yet attempted, much less perform'd. ...Ut pendet continaum flexile, sic stabit contiguum rigidum, which is the Linea Catenaria.
  • The Publisher of Transactions in that of October 1675 indeavours to cover former injuries done me by accumulating new ones, and this with so much passion as with integrity to lay by discretion; otherwise he would not have affirmed, that it was as certain that none of my Watches succeeded, as it was that I had made them several years ago: For how could he be sure of a Negative? Whom I have not acquainted with my Inventions, since l looked on him as one that made a trade of Intelligence.
    Next whereas he says l made them without publishing them to the world in Print, he prevaricates, and would have it believed that they were not published to the world, though they were publickly read of in Sir John Cutlers Lectures before great numbers at several times, and though they were made and shewn to thousands both English and Foreiners, and writ of to several persons absent, and though they were in the year 1665 in the History of the Royal Society published to the world in Print, because, forsooth, they were not printed in his Transactions.
    Thirdly, whereas the Publisher of Transactions makes along story of my seeing his Journal De Scavans, and my desiring to transcribe that part of it which concerned this matter, as if l had requested some singular favour thereby, l answer,
    First, that he knew I designed presently to have printed it with Animadversions, but he endeavoured to prevent me, designing first clancularly to get a Patent of it for himself, and thereby to defraud me.
    Next, I say, I had a right without his favour to have seen, perused, and copied it, as I was one of the Royal Society, the intelligence he there brings in being the Societies. ...
    To his upbraiding me with his having published some things of Mine; I answer, he hath so, but not so much with mine as with his own desire, and if he send me what I think worth publishing, l will do as much for him, and repay him in his own coyn.
    Lastly, Whereas he makes use of We and Us ambiguously, it is desired he would explain whether he means the Royal Society, or the Pluralities of himself. If the former, it is not so, as l can prove by many Witnesses; if the later, I neither know what he is acquainted with, or what has been imparted or explained to him.
    So not designing to trouble my self any further with him, unless he gives me occasion, I dismiss him with his
    — Speque metuque
    Procul hinc procul ito.
  • Some other Course therefore must be taken to promote the Search of Knowledge. Some other kind of Art for Inquiry than what hath been hitherto made use of, must be discovered; the Intellect is not to he suffer'd to act without its Helps, but is continually to be assisted by some Method or Engine, which shall be as a Guide to regulate its Actions, so as that it shall not be able to act amiss: Of this Engine, no Man except the incomparable Verulam hath had any Thoughts, and he indeed hath promoted it to a very good pitch; but there is yet somewhat more to be added, which he seem'd to want time to compleat. By this, as by that Art of Algebra in Geometry, 'twill be very easy to proceed in any Natural Inquiry, regularly and certainly: And indeed it may not improperly be call'd a Philosophical Algebra, or an Art of directing the Mind in the search after Philosophical Truths, for as 'tis very hard for the most acute Wit to find out any difficult Problem in Geometry. without the help of Algebra to direct and regulate the Acts of the Reason in the Process from the question to the quœsitum, and altogether as easy for the meanest Capacity acting by that Method to compleat and perfect it, so will it be in the inquiry after Natural Knowledge.
  • About this time, 1655, having an opportunity of acquainting myself with astronomy by the kindness of Dr. Ward, I apply'd myself to the improving of the pendulum for such observations, and in the year 1656, or 1657, I contriv'd a way to continue the motion of the pendulum, so much commended by Ricciolus in his Almagestum which Dr. Ward had recommended to me to peruse. I made some trials to this end, which I found to succeed to my wish. The success of these made me further think of improving it for finding the longitude; and the method I had made for myself for mechanick inventions, quickly led me to the use of springs, instead of gravity, for the making a body vibrate in any posture. Whereupon I did first in great, and afterwards in smaller modules, satisfy myself of the practicableness of such an invention; and hoping to have made great advantage thereby, I acquainted divers of my freinds, and particularly Mr. Boyle, that I was possessed of such an invention, and crav'd their assistance for improving the use of it to my advantage. Immediately after his majesty's restoration Mr. Boyle was pleased to acquaint the lord Brouncher and Sir Robert Moray with it, who advis'd me to get a patent for the invention, and propounded very probable ways of making considerable advantage by it. To induce them to a belief of my performance, I shewed a pocket watch, accommodated with a spring, apply'd to the arbor of the ballance, to regulate the motion thereof, concealing the way I had for finding the longitude. This was so well approv'd of, that Sir Robert Moray drew me up the form of a patent, the principal part whereof, viz. the description of the watch so regulated, is his own hand writing, which I have yet by me. The discouragement I met with in the management of this affair, made me desist for that time.
    • As quoted by John Ward, The lives of the professors of Gresham college (1740) p. 171.

Quotes about Hooke

  • The possession of two such men as Newton and Hooke is rarely granted to one generation. They were not equal, however, in their greatness. But, while ample justice has been done to the genius of Newton, the labours of Hooke have been sadly overlooked. Hooke's misfortune lay more in his nearness to one whose greater glory paled his lesser light, than in any dimness in his own effulgence. But his nearness in time to Newton was not the only obstacle to his fame. He wanted method. His brain was too busy and ready to devise more than his hands could execute or his pen describe, and the eager student of his works, while ready to grasp a new fact or full-grown thought, is too often doomed to disappointment by his quaint remark, "But of this by and by." This by and by rarely comes, or if ever, almost always in the wrong place. In a discourse of earthquakes, for instance, we find desriptions of a new telescope, the exact orientation of Westminster as evidencing the variation of the compass, and observations on the setting of the sun-dial in the Privy Gardens at Whitehall.
    • Alexander Bryson, F.S.A., Scotland, "Exposition of the Mechanical Inventions of Dr Robert Hooke." The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Vol. 4 (1856) p. 12
  • Hooke merited a larger share of the admiration of posterity than has hitherto been awarded to him...
    • Alexander Bryson, F.S.A., Scotland, "Exposition of the Mechanical Inventions of Dr Robert Hooke." The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Vol. 4 (1856) p. 12
  • Robert Hooke was the first to announce that the force of the spring is as its angular distance from its position of rest. It seems, indeed, from his posthumous works, edited by Waller.... that Hooke, as early as 1656, had under the form of an anagram, expressed the law Ut pondus sic tensio. I have therefore little doubt that to Hooke we owe the invention of the fusee, one of the most beautiful of the many contrivances required to make a perfect timekeeper.
  • [Following Galileo...] The next great inventor and improver of the science of horology was Hooke. In the year 1658 he invented the balance-spring, an improvement of the first importance in the art of timekeeping. ...Immediately after the invention of the balance-spring by Hooke, it was found that as the watches to which the spring was adapted kept so much more accurate time than those formerly made, it became desirable to divide the hour into more minute portions, and so the motion work was invented and the minute-hand applied.
  • Hooke is amazing in the number, the variety and the ingenuity of his experiments as well as for his extraordinary fertility in hypothesis. He followed Bacon in his attempt to demonstrate that the effects of gravity on a body must diminish as the body was sunk into the bowels of the earth. He sought to discover how far the effects were altered at great heights or in the region of the equator; and he threw light on the problem by observations and experiments on the pendulum. From the globular shapes of the heavenly bodies and the stable conformations of the ridges on the moon he deduced that the moon and the planets had gravity; and by 1666 he saw the motion of a comet (for example) as incurvated by the pull of the sun... and suggested that the motion of the planets might be explicable on the kind of principles that account for the motion of a pendulum. In 1674 he was suggesting that by this route one could arrive at a mechanical system of the planets which would be "the true perfection of astronomy." He pointed out that... account must be taken of the force which all heavenly bodies must be presumed to be exerting on one another.
  • By 1678 he had formulated the idea of gravitation as a universal principle; and by 1679 he, too, had discovered that the diminution of the force of gravity is proportional to the square of the distance. In this period it would appear that Newton... seemed to be less sure of his apprehension than Hooke. At the same time [Newton] was called upon for mathematical help... Hooke was to claim the priority in respect of the whole gravitational theory, and because Newton had been secretive about his work in 1665-66, because many of Hooke's own papers disappeared, and because Newton's memory was defective sometimes—or his accounts unreliable—the controversy... has been renewed in recent years. But... Hooke did not produce the mathematical demonstrations of his system. the crucial period he was developing his mathematical powers more than was once imagined... His reputation has risen, with... research... though the glory of Newton has not been eclipsed.
  • In a... controversy with Hevelius, Hooke prejudiced a good cause by bad manners. Hevelius having ignored his recommendation of telescopic sights, he [Hooke] devoted several Cutlerian lectures to unfriendly comments on that 'curious and pompous book,' the 'Machina Cœlestis.' Hooke's acrid, though just, arguments were collected as 'Animadversions on the First Part of the "Machina Cœlestis"' (1674), in which he inserted descriptions of a 'water-level' and of a mode of giving clockwork motion to a parallactic instrument.
    There is no doubt of Hooke's priority in the application of a spiral spring to regulate the balance of watches; but here again his peevish temper brought him discredit. The invention, arrived at about 1668, was designed to solve the problem of longitudes, and Boyle and Brouncker endeavoured to secure him a patent, but he declined their terms, and concealed the improvement until Huygens rediscovered it in 1675. He then caused some of his 'new watches' to be constructed by Tompion (one of which was presented to Charles II), and published the principle involved in them of the isochronism of springs in the maxim 'ut tensio, sic vis,' appended in cryptographic form to 'A Description of Helioscopes' (1676). A quarrel with Oldenburg on the subject culminated in Hooke's accusation of him as 'a trafficker in intelligence,' an expression which the Royal Society obliged him to withdraw. It was contained in a postscript to his 'Lampas, or a Description of some Mechanical Improvements of Lamps and Water-poises' (1677).
    • Miss A. M. Clerke, The Dictionary of National Biography Vol. XXVII, "Hindmarsh-Hovenden" (1891) & Vol. IX, "Harris--Hovenden" (1908)
  • To complete the theory of reflexion and refraction on the undulatory hypothesis, it will be necessary to show what becomes of those oblique portions of the secondary waves, diverging in all directions from every point of the reflecting or refracting surfaces... which do not conspire to form the principal wave. But to understand this, we must enter on the doctrine of the interference of the rays of light,—a doctrine we owe almost entirely to the ingenuity of Dr. Young, though some of its features may be pretty distinctly traced in the writings of Hooke, (the most ingenious man, perhaps, of his age,) and though Newton himself occasionally indulged in speculations bearing a certain relation to it. But the unpursued speculations of Newton, and the appercus of Hooke, however distinct, must not be put in competition, and, indeed, ought scarcely to be mentioned with the elegant, simple, and comprehensive theory of Young,—a theory which, if not founded in nature, is certainly one of the happiest fictions that the genius of man has yet invented to group together natural phenomena...
  • The flexible chain, hanging under the action of applied force, will assume a certain shape, namely the catenary if the chain is subjected only to its own weight, or a parabola if the load is uniformly distributed horizontally. Whatever the load, there will be a corresponding shape, and the structural action in all cases is the same; purely tensile forces are transmitted along the centre line of the chain.
    As Hooke saw in 1675 with his ut pendet continuum flexile, sic stabit contiguum rigidum inversum, ...a hanging chain may be inverted to give a satisfactory arch to carry the same loads, but working in compression rather than tension. The compressive arch, however, if of vanishingly small thickness, would be in unstable equilibrium, and stability is conferred in practice by making the arch ring of finite depth.
    • Jaques Heyman, Equilibrium of Shell Structures (1977)
Flea illustration
Micrographia (1665)
  • He could... produce delightful drawings. Hooke was justifiably proud of his skills as an artist. It was a talent that he shared with his college friend Christopher Wren—by the late 1650s they had begun making exquisite drawings of insects and other natural phenomena viewed with the high-magnification help of the new microscope.
    • Lisa Jardine, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London (2004)
  • Historically, the investigations of oscillatory motions was motivated by the desire to improve methods of telling time. ...In the seventeenth century the need to measure small periods of time accurately for the purpose of telling longitude at sea caused scientists to search for increasingly accurate clocks. The search resulted in some major successes that were at least as valuable for the advancement of mathematics and the study of other phenomena of nature, such as light and sound, as they were for the specific problem of measuring time.
    Scientists naturally concentrated on any physical phenomena that seemed to be periodic or repetitive and might therefore be related to the periodic motion of the planets. Two phenomena recommended themselves for closer investigation, the motion of an object or bob... on a spring, and the motion of a pendulum. The first of those attracted the attention of Robert Hooke... Suppose d is the increase or decrease in the length of the spring resulting from extension or contraction. Hooke found that the restoring force the spring exerts is proportional to d; that is, the force is a constant k, say, times d. This is the meaning of [Ut tensio, sic vis ("as the extension, so the force")]...
  • When any body is strained beyond a certain amount and then released, it fails to return completely to its original form and volume or it retains a permanent set. The largest strain of any kind which a body may undergo and still completely recover from when released is called the limit of elasticity for that form of strain, and the corresponding stress is called the limiting stress. The limit of elasticity is... widely different for different substances. Thus, rubber may be greatly extended and yet recover, while the limit for glass and ivory is very small. ...
    Within the limit of elasticity a simple law, first stated by Hooke in 1676 and known as Hooke's law, holds, namely, "stress is proportional to strain." (Hooke's statement in Latin was "Ut tensio sic vis.") Hooke illustrated his law by various cases of strain, such as the stretching of a spiral spring and of a wire, the bending of a beam, the twisting of a wire, and so on.
    • Exum Percival Lewis, Charles Elwood Marshall, Albert Pruden Carman, Robert Kenning McClung, A Text-book of Physics (1908) p. 113.
  • That plants and animals are composed of cells was not revealed until the invention of the microscope, which although very rude in its construction and efficiency as compared with microscopes of today, was beginning to be employed by Robert Hooke (1635-1703) and others in the seventeenth century in the study of plants. Robert Hooke, one of the earliest to study plants with the microscope, examined thin sections of cork, and found the cork to be composed of numerous small compartments which he called cells on account of their rough resemblance to the cells of a honeycomb.
  • Thence with Creed to Gresham College, where I had been by Mr. Povy the last week proposed to be admitted a member; and was this day admitted... But it is a most acceptable thing to hear their discourse, and see their experiments; which were this day upon the nature of fire... Above all, Mr. Boyle to-day was at the meeting, and above him Mr. Hooke, who is the most, and promises the least, of any man in the world that ever I saw.
  • November the 29th 1693, Dr Hook read a Discourse concerning Microscopes, their Uses and Advantages in discovering the Textures and Motions of Bodies, as well animate as inanimate; observing, that all Examinations by Fire, or Chymical Menstruums, destroyed or altered the compounding Particles, or mix'd them with, and confounded them with heterogeneous Parts of the Fire, or Menstruum, made Use of; whereas the Microscope discovers them in their natural State and Actions. Observing farther, that the Motions of the Viscera and of the Fluids, in the small Vessels, are, by that Instrument, to be seen, by their different Colours and Refractions, through the transparent Skins and Bodies of many Insects: Natural History, hitherto, being for the most Part only conversant about the outward Shape and Colour of Plants, Animals, and the like; but the Microscope would afford a very large Field of Enquiries and Observations not yet much cultivated, which he recommends as one of the most proper Ways of discovering the true Texture and Mechanism of Bodies.
    • Richard Waller, "Mr. Waller's Observations upon Dr. Hook's Discourses, concerning Telescopes and Microscopes" Philosophical Experiments and Observations of the late Eminent Dr. Robert Hooke, S.R.S and Geom. Prof. Gresh. and Other Eminent Virtuoso's in his Time. (1726)

The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke (1705)


by Richard Waller

  • Being subject to headache which hindered his learning his father laid aside all thought of breeding him a scholar, and finding himself also grow very infirm through age and sickness, wholly neglected his further education, who, being thus left to himself, spent his time in making little mechanical 'Toys, (as he says) in which he was very intent, and for the Tools he had successful; so that there was nothing he saw done by any Mechanick but he endeavoured to imitate, and in some particular could exceed (which are his own words).' His Father, observing by these Indications, his great inclination to Mechanicks, thought to put him Apprentice to some easy Trade (as a Watchmakers or Limners) he shewing most inclination to those or the like Mechanical Performances; for making use of such Tools as he could procure, 'seeing an old Brass Clock taken to pieces, he attempted to imitate it, and made a wooden one that would go: 'Much about the same time he made a small Ship about a Yard long, fitly shaping it, adding its Rigging of Ropes, Pullies, Masts, &c. with a contrivance to make it fire off some small Guns, as it was Sailing cross a Haven of a pretty breadth: He had also a great fancy for drawing, having much about the same Age Coppied several Prints with a Pen, that Mr. Hoskins (Son to the famous Hoskins Cowpers Master) much admired one not instructed could so well imitate them.
    • "The Life of Dr. Robert Hooke." p. ii, Information taken from Hooke's Diary
  • From his Youth he had been us'd to a Collegiate, or rather Monastick Life, which might be some reason of his continuing to live so like an Hermit or Cynick too penuriously, when his Circumstances, as to Estate, were very considerable, scarcely affording himself Necessaries.
    I indeed, as well as others, have heard him declare sometimes that he had a great Project in his Head as to the disposal of the most part of his Estate for the advancement of Natural Knowledge, and to promote the Ends and Designs for which the Royal Society was instituted... But tho he was often solicited by his Friends to put his Designs down in Writing, and make his Will as to the disposal of his Estate to his own liking in the time of his Health; and after when himself, and all thought, his End drew near, yet he could never be prevail'd with to perfect it, still procrastinating it, till at last this great Design prov'd an airy Phantom and vanish'd into nothing. Thus he dy'd at last without any Will and Testament that could be found.
    • "The Life of Dr. Robert Hooke." p. xxvii
  • He always exprest a great Veneration for the eternal and immense Cause of all Beings, as may be seen in very many Passages in his Writings, and seldom receiv'd any remarkable Benefit from God without thankfully ackowledging the Mercy; never made any considerable discovery in Nature, invented any useful Contrivance, or found out any difficult Problem, without setting down his Acknowledgement to the Omnipotent Providence, as many places in his Diary testify, frequently in these or the like words, abbreviated thus, DOMGM. and was a frequent studier of the Holy Scripture in the Originals: If he was particular in some Matters, let us leave him to the searcher of Hearts.
    • "The Life of Dr. Robert Hooke." p. xxviii
  • All his Errors and Blemishes were more than made amends for, by the Greatness and Extent of his natural and acquired Parts, and more than common, if not wonderful Sagacity, in diving into the most hidden secrets of Nature, and in contriving proper Methods of forcing her to confess the Truth. ...There needs no other Proof for this than the great number of Experiments he made, with the Contrivances for them, amounting to some hundreds; his new and useful Instruments and Inventions, which were numerous, his admirable Facility and Clearness, in explaining the Phænomena of Nature, and demonstrating his Assertions; his happy Talent in adapting Theories to the Phænomena observ'd, and contriving easy and plain, not pompous and amusing, Experiments to back and prove those Theories; proceeding from Observations to Theories, and from Theories to farther trials, which he often asserted to be the most proper method to succeed in the interpretation of Nature. For these, his happy Qualifications, he was much respected by the most learned Philosophers both at home and abroad: And as with all his Failures, he may be reckon'd among the great Men of the last Age, so had he been free from them, possibly, he might have stood in the Front. But humanum est errare.
    • "The Life of Dr. Robert Hooke." p. xxviii

Brief Lives, Chiefly of Contempories, set down by John Abrey, between the Years 1669-1696 (1898)


John Aubrey, Vol. 2, Part III.—1859-1860. "Robert Hooke" (1635-1703)

  • When he went to Mr Busby's, the schoolemaster of Westminster, at whose howse he was; and he made very much of him. ...There he learnd to play 20 lessons on the organ. He there in one weeke's time made himselfe master of the first Vl bookes of Euclid, to the admiration of Mr. Busby... who introduced him. At schoole here he was very mechanicall, and (amongst other things) he invented thirty severall wayes of flying, which I have not only heard him say, but Dr. Wilkins (at Wadham College at that time) who gave him his Mathematical Magique which did him a great kindnes. He was never a King's Scholar, and I have heard Sir Richard Knight (who was his school-fellow) say that he seldome sawe him in the schoole.
    • p. 410
  • Anno Domini 1658... he was sent to Christ Church in Oxford, where he had a chorister's place (in those dayes when the church musique was putt downe), which was a pretty good maintenance. He was there assistant to Dr. Thomas Willis in his chymistry; who afterwards recommended him to the honble Robert Boyle, esqre, to be usefull to him in his chymicall operations. Mr Hooke then read to him (R.B. esqre) Euclid's Elements, and made him understand Des Cartes' Philosophy.
    • pp. 410-411
  • Anno Domini 1662 Mr. Robert Boyle recommended Mr. Robert Hooke to be Curator of the Experiments of the Royall Society, wherin he did an admirable good worke to the Common-wealth of Learning, in recommending the fittest person in the world to them. Anno 1664 he was chosen Geometry Professour at Gresham College.
    • p. 411
  • Anno Domini 1666 the great conflagration of London happened, and then he was chosen one of the two surveyors of the citie of London; by which he hath gott a great estate. He built Bedlam, the Physitians' College, Montague-house, the Piller on Fish-street-hill, and Theatre there; and he is much made use of in designing buildings.
    • p. 411
  • As he is of prodigious inventive head, so is a person of great vertue and goodnes. Now when I have sayd his inventive faculty is so great, you cannot imagine his memory to be excellent, for they are like two bucketts, as one goes up, the other goes downe. He is certainly the greatest mechanick this day in the world. His head lies much more to Geometry then to Arithmetique.
    • p. 411
  • 'Twas Mr Robert Hooke that invented the Pendulum Watches, so much more usefull than the other watches.
    • p. 412
  • He hath invented an engine for the speedie working of division, etc., or for the speedie and immediate finding out the divisor.
    • p. 412
  • The next moneth he published another little... pamphlet,—Discourse of a new instrument he haz invented to make more accurate observations in astronomy then ever was yet made, or could be made by any instruments hitherto invented, and this instrument... performes more, and more exact, then all the chargeable apparatus of the noble Tycho Brache or the present Hevelius of Dantzick.
    • p. 412