Robert Hooke : Renaissance Man

Robert Hooke was the English scientist and inventor who wrote the 1665 book Micrographia, in which he coined the term “cell” for a basic biological structure. A gifted student with a particular talent for mechanics, Hooke was educated at Oxford, where he assisted Robert Boyle with his successful air pump experiments. A member of the Royal Society from 1663, Hooke was accomplished in astronomy, biology, physics and architecture, and his skill as an instrument maker gave him an edge over his contemporaries. He argued with Isaac Newton over the nature of light and gravity, and their long-running debate is said to have left both men forever bitter toward each other. Hooke’s studies of springs and elasticity led to his enunciation of “Hooke’s Law”

Quick facts

FULL NAME :  Robert Hooke

FAMOUS AS : Philosopher


BORN ON : July 18, 1635

BIRTHDAY : July 18



PLACE OF BIRTH : Freshwater, Isle of Wight, Englang

DIED ON : March 3, 1703


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.

Early Life and Carrier

Robert Hooke was born in the town of Freshwater, on England’s Isle of Wight, on July 18, 1635. His parents were John Hooke, who served as curate for the local church parish, and Cecily (née Gyles) Hooke.

Initially a sickly child, Hooke grew to be a quick learner who was interested in painting and adept at making mechanical toys and models. After his father’s death in 1648, the 13-year-old Hooke was sent to London to apprentice with painter Peter Lely. This connection turned out to be a short one, and he went instead to study at London’s Westminster School.

In 1653, Hooke enrolled at Oxford’s Christ Church College, where he supplemented his meager funds by working as an assistant to the scientist Robert Boyle. While studying subjects ranging from astronomy to chemistry, Hooke also made influential friends, such as future architect Christopher Wren.

Teaching, Research and Other Occupations

Hooke was appointed curator of experiments for the newly formed Royal Society of London in 1662, a position he obtained with Boyle’s support. Hooke became a fellow of the society in 1663.

Unlike many of the gentleman scientists he interacted with, Hooke required an income. In 1665, he accepted a position as professor of geometry at Gresham College in London. After the “Great Fire” destroyed much of London in 1666, Hooke became a city surveyor. Working with Wren, he assessed the damage and redesigned many of London’s streets and public buildings.


Personal Life and Reputation

Hooke never married. His niece, Grace Hooke, his longtime live-in companion and housekeeper, as well as his eventual lover, died in 1687; Hooke was inconsolable at the loss.

Hooke’s career was marred by arguments with other prominent scientists. He often sparred with fellow Englishman Isaac Newton, including one 1686 dispute over Hooke’s possible influence on Newton’s famous book Principia Mathematica.


Robert Hooke died aged 67, on March 3, 1703, in London. He had suffered ill-health for some years, but the precise cause of his death was not recorded. Thanks mainly to his work as an architect, he died as a very wealthy man.

Awards & Achievements of Robert Hooke

      A true polymath, the topics Hooke covered during his career include comets, the motion of light, the rotation of Jupiter, gravity, human memory and the properties of air. In all of his studies and demonstrations, he adhered to the scientific method of experimentation and observation. Hooke also utilized the most up-to-date instruments in his many projects.

Hooke’s most important publication was Micrographia, a 1665 volume documenting experiments he had made with a microscope. In this groundbreaking study, he coined the term “cell” while discussing the structure of cork. He also described flies, feathers and snowflakes, and correctly identified fossils as remnants of once-living things.

The 1678 publication of Hooke’s Lectures of Spring shared his theory of elasticity; in what came to be known as “Hooke’s Law,” he stated that the force required to extend or compress a spring is proportional to the distance of that extension or compression. In an ongoing, related project, Hooke worked for many years on the invention of a spring-regulated watch.

Quotes and Sayings by Robert Hooke

Cut your morning devotions into your personal grooming. You would not go out to work with a dirty face. Why start the day with the face of your soul unwashed?.
It all depends on whether you have things, or they have you.
Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn’t take any brains to complain.

Some Unknown Facts About Robert Hooke

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.

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