The Father of Modern Science and an 'unsung' hero...
Robert Hooke
"In tribute to his genius and dedication to science and creative thought...
and his breakthrough contributions to Microscopy!"
by Maurice Smith - March 13th 2000
(All rights reserved)

Robert Hooke Facts

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English Father of Microscopy
Hooke was not just an observer. When asked to produce a model of the eye for demonstration before the Royal Society, he created one containing an iris diaphragm. This may well have inspired his creation of an improved compound microscope - complete with iris diaphragm and independent light source...

See a 3D image of this microscope.
Replica of a Hooke Microscope on show at the Science Museum - London.

The illustration from which it was made is behind the microscope. Micrographia, Hooke's first published work contained details of an improved microscope which influenced microscope makers both then and years later.

Hooke corresponded with several other pioneering microscopists of the day - including Anthony van Leeuwenhoek the pioneering microscopist in the Netherlands. He demonstrated to the society on the 10th November 1677 - Leeuwenhoek's discovery of 'minute worms' in pepper water.

It was Hooke therefore who confirmed Anthony van Leeuwenhoek's discoveries of the existence of tiny living organisms in a variety of waters. He made a copy of Leeunwenhoek's microscope and used it to confirm other observations reported by him.

They remained in contact via letters, with Hooke's friend Theodore Haak providing translation of Leeuwenhoek's writings to Hooke during his frequent visits to his home. In one letter to Leeuwenhoek, Robert Hooke commented that they seemed to be the only two people contributing significantly to the field of microscopical studies.

The first letter from Leeuwenhoek to the society, reporting on his findings, was a paper called 'Microscopium'.

[Author's note: As an aside, it is significant that these two men, between them, established the field of enthusiast microscopy which the readers of Micscape and many of the visitors of Mic-UK continue to follow today - nearly 300 years later. It is also interesting to note that it is through original collaboration between Dutch and English enthusiast microscopists (now an International collaboration involving microscopists throughout the world) Micscape Magazine matured. ]

See a 3D image of this lamp.
Replica of a Hooke Illumination Device (his lamp used with microscopical study) on show at the Science Museum - London.

Hooke's skills were as wide as they were formidable. He was adept at making his own tools and instruments, not only for microscopy, but for astronomy, geology, meteorology, horology (time, clocks), surveying, etc.,

He was able to make his own lenses and mirrors, for use in his telescopes and microscopes.

In his writings, Hooke postulated that one day, improved optics and devices beyond the limitations of the technology available in the 17th century, might yield greater detail and information regarding microscopical forms.

Today, Scanning Electron microscopes and Tunnel Effect Microscopes reveal incredible detail through overcoming the limitations imposed by the wavelength of light and the use of glass optics.

Robert Hooke used his observations at the microscope to develop the first notions of how engineering designs of nature could be applied to man-made designs and artifacts. When studying bee stings and the hairs on stinging nettles - he considered how their structures and processes could be utilized for transferring liquids into humans: something that was realized later in history with the introduction of the syringe or hypodermic needle!

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Brownian motion: First to observe and conjecture on an effect that was rediscovered 150 years later by Robert Brown.
Dentistry: First to make a amalgam of mercury which was malleable but which could harden in a short time. Later rediscovered and used as teeth fillings.
Uranus: discovered a new planet (reported on 22nd January 1673)... 100 years before it was accidentally re-discovered in 1781 by the British astronomer William Herschel.
Planetary motion: demonstrated, by practical example, the true motion of planets and that they would be in elliptical orbits. A monumental discovery which is recorded in the notes and accounts of the Royal Society - and should have earned him priority on this claim rather than Isaac Newton.
Sound: discovered that sound could travel along a wire and around corners.
Frequency: determined that sound was the effect of a system of beats... measuring middle C by experimentation to be 272 beats a second.
Telescope: first person in England to observe stars in daylight using a zenith telescope.
Surveying: designed and constructed the first device that led to the production of a modern surveyors wheel.
Magnetic Pole: hypothesized that the magnetic poles of earth were subject to change and reversal and were not fixed.
Molten earth: hypothesized the initial fluid state of the earth.
Halley's comet: Hooke discovered and proved that the comet seen in 1665 was the same one seen in 1618 - proving comets were period. Halley was the second discoverer of its regularity... not the first!
Reflecting telescope: constructed one of the first reflecting telescopes based on the ideas of James Gregory... Professor or Mathematics St. Andrews University - Scotland. The construction of the telescope was achieved through Hooke making his own mirror and lenses: a versatile man!
Hygrometer: invented the first hygrometer - an instrument used to measure atmospheric humidity. His invention stemmed from his microscopical study of hair from a goat's beard!
Sonar: invented a depth-sounding machine in the 17th century.
Refraction: created the refractometer to measure the index of refraction of liquids.

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Published in the March 2000 edition of Micscape.

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