Robert Hooke (1635–1703)

Although he had been a weak and sickly child, English chemist, physicist and architect Robert Hooke (1635–1703) demonstrated a capacity to learn and an inclination for mechanical toys and devices. Sent to London to study with a painter, he pursued his own education, before moving on to Christ Church, Oxford as a chorister and became involved in scientific research with John Wilkins (flying machines), John Willis (chemicals), and Robert Boyle on (air pumps). 

He left Oxford without a bachelor's degree but was granted an MA in 1663. Hooke was appointed as the first curator of experiments at the Royal Society in November 1662. 

While the position originally came without remuneration, he ended up with a salaried position that, effectively, made him the first professional research scientist. As a salaried employee, Hooke was frequently 'ordered' to try an experiment, but within a couple of years, had become indispensable and was left, for the most part, to determine his experimental programme. 

He appeared on the Society's list of persons to be admitted as fellows in May 1663 and became the professor of physics at Gresham College, London in 1665. 

In the same year, he published his Micrographia or, Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses, with observations and inquiries thereupon (1665), an account of his microscopic investigations in a range of scientific fields. Micrographia initiated the field of microscopy, provided clear, precise descriptions of a wide range of observations and included reports of a variety of instruments that he had invented, including a device for measuring the refraction of light passing through a transparent liquid. 

After Micrographia

© Ian Hughes 2017