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Robert Hooke (1635-1708)

Robert Hooke was perhaps one of the most important scientists from the 17th century.  While his research and findings were often overshadowed by those of his rival Sir  Isaac Newton, one cannot argue their importance in the development of fields such as physics, astronomy, biology, and medicine, to name a few. 

One could say he was England's equivalent of 14th century genius Leonardo da Vinci, that he was a true renaissance man who was constantly seeking answers to questions, and inventing new and ingenious scientific instruments.  Hooke's inventions include the spring control of the balance wheel in watches, and the first reflecting telescope.  Hooke also worked as an architect, although his dreams of redesigning London following the Great Fire of 1666 were brought down to smaller proportions.

One must realize that Robert Hooke's advances in the field of Microscopy and Astronomy opened doors which would one day lead to discoveries from scientists such as Dr. Edwin Hubble, and that some of his other inventions such as the universal joint, which is being used in the automobile industry, and his balanced springs, which are still part of some of the watches we wear.  Hooke's Law and his combustion theory are still used by today's scientists.

Alas, for all the genius and for all his triumphs, Hooke was a sickly, bitter man who's work had oft been at the source of others' successes, a man who spent his entire life alone, orphaned at the age of 13 following his father's suicide.  To make matters worse, Hooke's one true love (Grace Hooke), also happened to be his niece, and the short while the two actually lived together at Hooke's home, there is no indication his love was reciprocated.   Hooke died alone, his estate being sold at auction to an illiterate woman by the name of Elizabeth Stevens.

Robert Hooke's remains were exhumed and reburied somewhere in North London in the 18th century, nut no one seems to know exactly where. If the remains are found, Professor Michael Cooper of City University, London plans to utilize the forensic anthropology technique of facial reconstruction to give Robert Hooke a face, and perhaps more of the recognition he deserves.  The only likeness of Robert Hooke's that was available until now was the Hooke memorial window, St Helen's Bishopsgate, but it was destroyed during the IRA Bishopsgate bombing.


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Last modified: January 17, 2003