Robert Hooke Biography


Birthday: July 28, 1635 (Leo)

Born In: Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Robert Hooke FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) was an English scientist, architect and polymath. His name is somewhat obscure and no portrait of him survives today, partly due to his enmity with his more famous and influential colleague, Sir Isaac Newton. But still he is credited for the major contributions he made to science by way of his experimental and theoretical work in the 17th century and in re-building London after the Great Fire in 1666. Always prone to ill health, he never let it hinder his interests, which knew no bounds. His experiments and studies covered a vast range of subjects like physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, architecture and naval technology. His prowess enabled him to work alongside scientists such as Christian Huygens, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac Newton. He discovered the law of elasticity, which is now famously known as Hooke’s law. He built a compound microscope and used it to observe the smallest, previously hidden details of the natural world. He also concluded that fossils had once been living creatures and stated that gravity applied to all celestial bodies. But for all contributions made to science and humanity, he never received the recognition he truly deserved
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In July

Also Known As: โรเบิร์ต ฮุค th, Гук, Роберт ru, 罗伯特·胡克 zh-TW

Died At Age: 67

Physicists Biologists

Died on: March 3, 1703

place of death: London

discoveries/inventions: Balance Wheel, Diaphragm, Universal Joint

More Facts

education: Christ Church, Oxford, Westminster School, University of Oxford, Wadham College, Oxford

Childhood & Early Life
Robert Hooke was born on 28 July 1635 in Freshwater, England, to John Hooke and Cecily Gyles. His father was a priest at the Church of England and the curate of the Freshwater's Church of All Saints. Robert had three siblings.
He received most of his education at home because of his continual frail health. But he impressed his father with his quick learning, drawing and painting skills and adeptness in making mechanical models.
His father passed away in 1648 and left him an inheritance of £40. With this he travelled to London and acquired an art apprenticeship under Peter Lely and Samuel Cowper. But he left the apprenticeship soon and went to the Westminster School to study under Dr Richard Busby. He studied Greek, Latin, mechanics and mathematics.
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In 1655, Robert Hooke became an assistant to the famous scientist Robert Boyle and worked in this capacity till 1662. He helped in the construction and operation of Boyle's air-pump.
He discovered the law of elasticity which eventually came to be known as Hooke’s Law. He described this law in an anagram 'ceiiinosssttuv' in 1660 and gave its solution in 1678.
In 1660, the Royal Society—the oldest national scientific society in the world—was formed by 12 men at the Gresham College. Some of them were Robert Boyle, Christopher Wren, John Wilkins, Sir Robert Moray and Viscount Brouncker. In 1662, on Sir Moray's proposal and with Boyle's support Hooke was named as the curator of the society. He became a fellow of the society in 1663.
In 1664 he succeeded Arthur Dacres as the professor of Geometry at the Gresham College.
In 1665 he published the book, ‘Micrographia’, in which he documented the observations he had made through various lenses of a microscope. It is considered to be one of the most important scientific books ever written.
In the 1670s he postulated that gravitational pull applies to all celestial bodies. He stated that it decreases with distance and in its absence the body would tend to move in a straight line. But he did not give any evidence to prove this.
He made a tremendous contribution to time keeping by improving pendulum clocks. He invented the anchor escapement, a cog which gave a small push per pendulum swing and also moved the hands of the clock forward. For pocket watches, he created the balance-spring.
After observing the microscopic structure of the bark of a cork tree, Hooke coined the term 'cell' for describing biological organisms, named so due to its resemblance to cells inhabited by Christian monks in a monastery.
He postulated that combustion needed a specific component of air and the same applied to respiration also. Experts believe that had he ventured further in these experiments, he would have discovered oxygen.
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He stated that fossilised objects were the remains of living things that had been soaked in petrifying water laden with minerals and that they were important clues to the past history of life on earth. He even believed that some of them might belong to extinct species as well.
In astronomy, Robert Hooke studied the Pleiades star cluster, the craters on the moon, rings of Saturn and the double-star system, Gamma Arietis.
In 1682, he proposed a remarkable mechanistic model of the human memory which addressed the components of encoding, memory capacity, repetition, retrieval and forgetting.
He was also an architect who served as the Surveyor of London city. After the Great Fire in 1666, he helped to rebuild the city and co-designed the Monument of the Fire, the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Montagu House, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Royal College of Physicians, Ragley Hall, Ramsbury Manor, Buckinghamshire and the St Mary Magdalene church.
Major Works
Robert Hooke is best known for propounding the law of elasticity which bears his name—Hooke’s law. He first stated the law as a Latin anagram in 1660 and published its solution in 1678. This law is extensively used in all branches of science and engineering, and is the foundation of many disciplines such as seismology, molecular mechanics and acoustics.
He is also known for the observations he made while using a microscope. In his book 'Micrographia', published in 1665, he documented experiments that he had made with a microscope. In this path-breaking study, he coined the term "cell" while explaining the structure of cork.
Awards & Achievements
Robert Hooke received the degree of "Doctor of Physic" in 1691.
Personal Life & Legacy
He suffered from several ailments in the last years of his life. He died in London on 3 March 1703 and was buried at St Helen's Bishopsgate. He was very wealthy at the time of his death.
Throughout history he is mentioned as a distrusting, jealous, melancholic and despicable human. But the discovery of his personal diary revealed his emotional side.

See the events in life of Robert Hooke in Chronological Order

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