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Robert Hooke

1635 - 1703

Robert Hooke, 1635 - 1703. English scientist.

Robert Hooke was an English polymath and all-round genius, active in an extraordinary range of fields during the English Enlightenment. History has not been fair to Hooke, obscuring his contributions in the shadow of his gigantuan rival, Isaac Newton.

  • Nationality
  • English

  • Subject
  • Physics

  • Fields
  • Microscopy, chemistry, biology, architecture, surveying, map-making, natural philosophy, astronomy, horology, navigation

  • Posts
  • Curator of Experiments, Royal Society, 1662 - 1703

    Gresham Professor of Geometry

    Surveyor to the City of London, in the wake of the Great Fire of 1666

  • Publications
  • Micrographia, 1665, a collection of drawings made from his observations under the new-fangled microscope.

  • Laws
  • Hooke's Law states that the force exerted by a spring opposes the force extending or compressing the spring. Since a spring always resists the force trying to stretch it or compress it, there is a negative sign in the equation:

    F = - kx

    where F is the force exerted by the spring, k is the spring (or force) constant (unit N⋅m-1 or kg⋅s-2), and x is the distance to which the spring changes length from its natural length.

    Every spring has physical limits to its compression and extension, depending on how much the coils can be compacted together or stretched.

  • Theories
  • Spring force

    Hooke proposed biological evolution, based on his microscopy investigations of fossils.

    Refraction of light, and the wave theory of light.

    Expansion of metal with temperature change.

    Particulate nature of air.

    Hooke was a pioneer of new surveying and map-making techniques.

    Planetary motion obeys the inverse square rule for gravitational attraction.

  • Equations
  • $F = k⋅x$

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Hooke coined the term 'cell', after comparing the rectangular divisions he observed in cork under the microscope to monk's cells.

    Hooke built the apparatus used by Robert Boyle to derive his Boyle's Law regarding the relationship between air pressure and volume of a gas.

    He constructed Gregorian telescopes, and used them to observe the rotations of Mars and Jupiter.

    Experimental proof that gravity obeys the inverse square law.

    Hooke probably invented the balnce spring and first anchor escapement system for portable timepieces, which would have solved the longitude problem if it had been adopted.

Robert Hooke was an English scientist who lived 1635 - 1703. He was a polymath, and worked in a very large number of fields, including physics, microscopy, and architecture. Hooke was a contemporary of Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727), and they were antagonists, meaning they were always fighting and criticising each other in public. It was mainly for his dislike of Hooke, that Newton did not become involved with the Royal Society till he took over the presidency in 1703, after Hooke died!

Hooke's drawings
Robert Hooke was an early user of microscopes to study the world of the very small
Rober Hooke
Robert Hooke, 1635 - 1703, scientist and experimentalist, who led the way in the use of the microscope in scientific investigation
Graph of Hooke's Law
Graph of Hooke's Law

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