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Robert Hooke, an English Natural Philosopher

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Robert Hooke was an English natural philosopher who was born in July 28, 1635, but passed on in March 3, 1703. Robert Hooke is most known for Hooke’s Law, Microscopy, and coining the word “cell”. Robert Hooke was born in Freshwater on England’s Isle of Wright in 1635. His parents were John Hooke, who served as curate for the local church parish, and Cecily (née Gyles) Hooke. 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.

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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. 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.

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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. In his last year of life, Hooke suffered from symptoms that may have been caused by diabetes. He died at the age of 67 in London on March 3, 1703.

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