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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Rebuilder of London

A large area of London was damaged by fire between September 2 and September 6, 1666. The fire started accidentally at Farriner's Bakery in Pudding Lane and destroyed 13,200 houses and 87 churches at a cost of 10% of the entire wealth of England at the time.

Christopher Wren's involvement with the subsequent rebuilding of London are isl known and documented but not so much the extraordinary involvement of his friend and associate - Robert Hooke!

Hooke was appointed as one of three surveyors to oversee the repairs and constructions - a task he went about with great determination and thoroughness. His output was extraordinary and probably equal to the work of the other two surveyors combined.

He designed many of the new buildings and contributed directly to their improved architecture and increased functionality. Several of his works are still incorrectly credited to Christopher Wren.

The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral dominates London's skyline from the river.

Christopher Wren probably took notice of Hooke's advice when designing St.Paul's for its dome is double-vaulted as suggested to him by Robert Hooke. These two giants of the 17th century had much in common. Ideas and recommendations for building design would have been exchanged freely between them.
One cannot help wondering therefore about the features of the Whispering Gallery - an area
lining the inner-dome which amplifies sound.

Hooke was quite conversant with the properties of sound and had already experimented with sound-amplification through the use of shape and structure. He understood sound was made up of beats of air and had already invented an ear trumpet to assist hearing. He knew also that sound could travel along a wire (mechanically).

He designed the main room at Montague House (one of many buildings he designed and built) in a certain proportion so that a whisper uttered at a wall one side would be heard at the other!


Maybe when we whisper in the dome of St. Paul's, the past is whispering back to us, within those faint air waves is another secret yet to be proven regarding Hooke's work and influence in the 17th century?

The Monument was designed and built (building work over-seen) by Hooke, as were: Montague House, Burlington House and Bethlam Hospital for the mentally ill, and The Royal College of Physicians. He also designed or influenced the construction of many buildings and churches - notably the spire of St. Mary's-le-bow which employed his ideas of using catenary curves.

His design and construction of Bethlam Hospital involved many innovations to make the building an aid to the healing process of the mentally ill. The building took 2 years to complete, occupying an area of 43,200 square feet and being 40 feet deep. The windows of rooms holding patients were unglazed, affording fresh air to the sick. There were separate toilets for men and women, hydrotheraputic baths, and areas where patients could exercise. Hooke aimed to help relieve depression. When completed, it was the only building in London to resemble a palace until Hooke designed and built Montague House!

The Monument was not just a structure to mark the location where the fire began. Hooke designed it with scientific experimentation in mind. At 202 feet in height, it is the tallest free-standing Doric column in the world, and was intended to allow barometer readings to be taken at its top. Hooke used the column on 16th May 1668 to carry out atmospheric pressure readings with his mercury barometer and discovered a mercury drop of approximately a third of an inch. Hooke also intended to use the column to test his theories concerning the use of pendulum clocks and the effects of gravity over them when placed at different heights from the earth's centre of gravity. The experiment was proposed before the Royal Society on 17th December 1681 although there is no record of it being carried out.

As surveyor, Hooke was responsible for issuing certificates on completed foundations. It is recorded he issued 2000 of these - a further testament to his ceaseless energy as he would have inspected the work in each case.


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 Achievements

Altimeter: conducted the first experiments of using aneroid barometers to determine altitude. Principle is used today in altimeters employed by hill walkers.
Nautical: suggested a device for measuring nautical distances travelled by ships - based on rotating vanes and cog-wheels.
Maps: his work led to the creation of a 'waywiser' - probably invented and first constructed by Hooke. This device resulted in the production of the most accurate maps of England during the period.
Dome: suggested to his friend Christopher Wren, the idea of employing a double-vaulted dome for the building of St. Paul's cathedral.
British Museum: designed and built the first home of the British Museum - Montague House.
Respiration: hypothesized that respiration might be an action where 'something in air' might be exchanged into the blood system - where it might be carried to all parts of the body.
Books for further reading
"Robert Hooke and the Royal Society" by Richard Nichols. ISBN 1 85776 465 X
Published 1999 by The Book Guild Ltd, 25 High Street, Lewes, Sussex. England.

Mr. Nichols' book has been used extensively for the writing of this article - which is a highly summarized synopsis of the more detailed research and careful work carried out by Mr. Nichols.

It is highly recommended that readers of this article obtain a copy of "Robert Hooke and the Royal Society" to understand the extraordinary contribution made to science by Robert Hooke.

The author, Richard Nichols, has written a previous work on the life of Robert Hook:-

"The diaries of Robert Hooke - The Leonardo of London", published in 1994 by The Book Guild Ltd, 25 High Street, Lewes, Sussex. England.
One of the first detailed accounts of Robert Hooke's life was written by Margaret Espinasse, 1954, called "Robert Hooke".

It was the first book to illuminate the significance of Robert Hooke's contributions to Science, and probably the first serious attempt to show the injustice of history failing to give greater accolade to his genius.
Diaries: the real-life diaries of Robert Hooke were transcribed in 1935 and published in the book "The Diary of Robert Hooke" by H.W. Robinson and W. Adams.
 

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Published in the March 2000 edition of Micscape.

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