HOOKE (Robert)

, a very eminent mathematician and philosopher, was born, 1635, at Freshwater in the Isle of Wight, where his father was minister. He was intended for the church; but being of a weakly constitution, and very subject to the head-ach, all thoughts of that nature were laid aside. Thus left to himself, the boy followed the bent of his genius, which was turned to mechanics; and employed his time in making little toys, which he did with wonderful art and dexterity. He had also a good turn for drawing; for which reason, after his father's death, which happened in 1648, he was placed with Sir Peter Lely; but the smell of the oil-colours increasing his head-ach, he quitted painting in a very short time. He was afterwards kindly taken by Dr. Busby into his house, and supported there, while he attended Westminster-school; where he not only acquired a competent share of Greek and Latin, together with an insight into Hebrew and some other Oriental languages, but also made himself master of a good part of Euclid's Elements; and, as Wood asserts, invented 30 different ways of flying.

About the year 1653 he went to Christ-church in Oxford; and in 1655 was introduced to the Philosophical Society there; where, discovering his mechanic genius, he was first employed to assist Dr. Willis in his chemical operations, and was afterwards recommended to Mr. Robert Boyle, whom he served several years in the same capacity. He was also instructed in astronomy about this time by Dr. Seth Ward, Savilian Professor of that science; and from henceforward distinguished himself by many noble inventions and improvements of the mechanic kind. He also invented several astronomical instruments, for making observations both at sea and land, and was particularly serviceable to Mr. Boyle in completing the invention of the air-pump. In 1662 he was appointed Curator of Experiments to the Royal Society; and when that body was established by royal charter, he was in the list of those, who were first named by the council in May 20, 1663; and he was admitted accordingly June 3, with a peculiar exemption from all payments. Sept. 28 of the same year, he was named by lord Clarendon, chancellor of Oxford, for the degree of M. A.; and Oct. 19 it was ordered that the repository of the Royal Society should be committed to his care: the white gallery in Gresham-college being appropriated to that use. In May 1664, he began to read the astronomy lecture at Gresham college for the professor Dr. Pope, then in Italy; and the same year he was made Professor of Mechanics to the Royal Society by Sir John Cutler, with a salary of 50l. per annum, which that gentleman, the founder, settled upon him for life. Jan. 11, 1665, that society granted a salary also of 30l. a year, for his office of Curator of Experiments for life; and the month of March the same year he was elected professor of geometry in Gresham-college.

In 1665 too, he published in folio, his “Micrographia, or some Philosophical Descriptions of Minute Bodies, made by Magnifying Glasses, with Observations and Enquiries thereupon.” And the same year, during the recess of the Royal Society on account of the plague, he attended Dr. Wilkins and other ingenious gentlemen into Surry, where they made several experiments. In 1666 he produced to the Royal So-| ciety a model for rebuilding the city of London, then destroyed by the great fire, with which the Society was well pleased; and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen preferred it to that of the city surveyor, though it happened not to be carried into execution. The rebuilding of the city according to the act of parliament requiring able persons to s<*>t out the ground for the proprietors, Mr. Hooke was appointed one of the surveyors; an employment in which he got most part of his estate, as appeared from a large iron chest of money found after his death, locked down with a key in it, and a date of the time, which shewed it to have been so shut up above 30 years. From 1668 he was engaged for many years in a warm contest with Hevelius, concerning the difference in accuracy between observing with astronomical instruments with plain and telescopic sights; in which dispute many learned men afterwards engaged, and in which Hooke managed so ill, as to be universally condemned, though it has since been agreed that he had the better side of the question.—In 1<*>71 he attacked Newton's “New Theory of Light and Colours;” where, though he was obliged to submit in respect to the argument, it is said he came off with more credit. The Royal Society having commenced their meetings at Gresham-college, November 1674, the Committee in December allowed him 40l. to erect a turret over part of his lodgings, for trying his instruments, and making astronomical observations: and the year following he published “A Description of Telescopes, and some other instruments made by R. H. with a Postscript,” complaining of some injustice done him by their secretary Mr. Oldenburg, who published the Philosophical Transactions, in regard to his invention of pendulum watches. This charge drew him into a dispute with that gentleman, which ended in a declaration of the Royal Society in their secretary's favour.—Mr. Oldenburg dying in 1677, Mr. Hooke was appointed to supply his place, and began to take minutes at the meeting in October, but did not publish the Transactions.—Soon after this, he grew more reserved than formerly; and though he read his Cutlerian Lectures, often made experiments, and shewed new inventions before the Royal Society, yet he seldom left any account of them to be entered in their registers; designing, as he said, to publish them himself, which however he never performed.—In 1686, when Newton's work the Principia was published, Hooke laid claim to his discovery concerning the force and action of gravity, which was warmly resented by that great philosopher. Hooke, though a great inventor and discoverer himself, was yet so envious and ambitious, that he would fain have been thought the only man who could invent and discover. This made him often lay claim to the inventions and discoveries of other persons; on which occasions however, as well as in the present case, the thing was generally carried against him.

In the beginning of the year 1687, his brother's daughter, Mrs. Grace Hooke, who had lived with him several years, died: and he was so affected with grief at her death, that he hardly ever recovered it, but was observed from that time to become less active, more melancholy, and more cynical than ever. At the same time, a chancery suit in which he was concerned with Sir John Cutler, on account of his salary for reading the Cutlerian Lectures, made him uneasy, and increased his disorder.—In 1691, he was employed in forming the plan of the hospital near Hoxton, founded by Robert Ask, alderman of London, who appointed archbishop Tillotson one of his executors; and in December the same year, Hooke was created M. D. by a warrant from that prelate. In July 1696, the chancery suit with Sir John Cutler was determined in his favour, to his inexpressible satisfaction. His joy on that occawas found in his diary thus expressed; DOMSHLGISSA; that is, Deo, Optimo, Maximo, sit honor, laus, gloria, in sæcula sæculorum, Amen. “I was born on this day of July 1635, and God hath given me a new birth: may I never forget his mercies to me! while he gives me breath may I praise him!”—In the same year 1696, an order was granted to him for repeating most of his experiments at the expence of the Royal Society, upon a promise of his finishing the accounts, observations, and deductions from them, and of perfecting the description of all the instruments contrived by him: but his increasing illness and general decay rendered him unable to perform it. He continued some years in this wasting condition; and thus languishing till he was quite emaciated, he died March 3, 1702, in his 67th year, at his lodgings in Gresham college, and was buried in St. Helen's church, Bishopsgate street; his corps being attended by all the members of the Royal Society then in London.

As to Mr. Hooke's character, it is not in all respects one of the most amiable. In his person he made rather a despicable figure, being but of a short stature, very crooked, pale, lean, and of a meagre aspect, with dark-brown hair, very long, and hanging over his face lank and uncut. Suitable to his person, his temper was penurious, melancholy, and mistrustful: and, though possessed of great philosophical knowledge, he had so much ambition, that he would be thought the only man who could invent or discover; and hence he often laid claim to the inventions and discoveries of others, while he boasted of many of his own which he never communicated. In the religious part of his character, he was so exemplary, that he always expressed a great veneration for the Deity; and seldom received any remarkable benefit in life, or made any considerable discovery in nature, or invented any useful contrivance, or found out any difficult problem, without setting down his acknowledgment to God, as many places in his diary plainly shew.—His chief publications are,

1. Lectiones Cutlerianæ, or the Cutlerian Lectures.

2. Micrographia, or Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses.

3. A Description of Helioscopes.

4. A Description of some Mechanical Improvements of Lamps and Water-poises.

5. Philosophical Collections.

6. Posthumous Works, collected from his papers by Richard Waller secretary to the Royal Society. Besides a number of papers in the Philos. Trans. volumes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 16, 17, 22.

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Entry taken from A Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary, by Charles Hutton, 1796.

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* HOOKE (Robert)