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 Meteorology

Micrographia contains more than Hooke's work on Microscopy. A man of many talents, he also held a keen interest in weather and he describes instruments he either invented or improved for furthering scientific enquiry into weather systems. He even decribes the way each device should be used.

One of these inventions was a wheel Barometer where minute changes in the rise and fall of mercury could be obtained. He also invented a hygrometer for measuring moisture in the air (humidity), the anemometer for measuring wind force, and an improved weather clock designed to record continuous weather measurements.

With uncanny intuition, he realised that if daily readings were tabulated, it might be possible to forecast the weather.

He was one of the first people to argue that hurricanes, storms, mists, and fogs were all weather effects associated with denser air.

Replica of Hooke's Wheel Barometer
(Science Museum London).

Many readers will have read the magnificent book called "Longitude". This is the true story of how english clock-maker, John Harrison, developed a clock by which longitude could be determined at sea - solving a problem of massive importance at the time. One of the primary issues concerned whether or not longitude (or position) could ever be determined by the use of a clock since variations in Gravity around the Earth, temperature changes, and humidity introduced errors into the clock's mechanism.

I won't destroy the potential enjoyment by revealing more of the story for those who have not read one of the most exciting accounts of challenge to human ingenuity ever published - but yet again... it appears that Robert Hooke had already produced solutions 100 years earlier.

The critical component in 17th and 18th century clocks was the pendulum, which itself was dependent on gravity as part of its driving/controlling force. Robert Hooke voyaged to the West Indies in 1662, discovering how gravity changes (less strong on the equator) and humidity interfered with the accuracy of a clock. He also realised the movement of the ship added additional errors to the pendulum's swing. To overcome these issues he invented counterwound spiral springs & double balances that compensated for these variable forces on the pendulum. He then designed a marine chronometer employing these improvements and created a pocket watch utilising his compensating devices. The new timepiece was demonstrated 20th Feb. 1668 to the Royal Society!

Ninety-nine years later in 1761 the English horologist John Harrison built a portable instrument with a compensation mechanism to ensure that the length of the pendulum was independent of temperature and its workings were unaffected by the movement of the ship. If John Harrison had been able to discover the earlier design by Hooke (later discovered in 1950 at Trinity College, Cambridge), it would have undoubtedly made his task easier!

No explanation is known as to how the design became 'rested' at Trinity College nor why it was never catalogued... which would have made its discovery possible by John Harrison and other clock-makers involved with trying to determine longitude accurately at sea.

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Polyzoans: first to oberve and draw Polyzoans - microscopic animals in sea moss.
Windmill: invented a horizontal sail for windmills.
Equatorial Quadrant: designed the first equatorial quadrant which aided astronomical observations.
Sun Spots: first to observe and record the existence of sun spots.
Helioscope: designed and created the first helioscope for studying the sun.
Cross-hairs: designed and created the first telescopic sight with cross hairs to aid his astronomical studies.
Steeple: demonstated the principle of the catenary curve and its potential application in architecture - improving the design of church steeples in London.
Mental Hospitals: pioneered the redesign of mental hospital buildings, introducing the first concepts of ergonomics: in this case - buildings designed to assist the healing process of the mentally ill.
Evolution: proposed the first concepts of evolution in rudimentary form - over 200 years before Darwin.
Heat: proposed, in rudimentary form, a theory of combustion.
First: Hooke was Britain's first professional experimental scientist.
Computer: invented the first western-world arithmetic machine.
Telescope: constructed the first Gregorian telescope.
Micrometer: developed an improved micrometer - and used it in his telescope sights and surveying instruments.
Airgun: invented an air gun.

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Published in the March 2000 edition of Micscape.

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