Robert Hooke

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Hooke, Robert

(ho͝ok), 1635–1703, English physicist, mathematician, and inventor. He became curator of experiments for the Royal Society (1662), professor of geometry at Gresham College (1665), and city surveyor of London after the great 1666 fire. Considered the greatest mechanic of his age, he made many improvements in astronomical instruments and in watches and clocks, was the first to formulate the theory of planetary movements as a mechanical problem, and anticipated universal gravitation. In 1684 he devised a practicable system of telegraphy. He invented the spiral spring in watches and the first screw-divided quadrant and constructed the first arithmetical machine and Gregorian telescope. He also stated Hooke's law (see elasticityelasticity,
the ability of a body to resist a distorting influence or stress and to return to its original size and shape when the stress is removed. All solids are elastic for small enough deformations or strains, but if the stress exceeds a certain amount known as the elastic
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), and in his pioneering book Micrographia (1665) he described his microscopic observations of plant tissues and coined the term cell.


See biography by L. Jardine (2004); studies by M. 'Espinasse (1956) and F. F. Centore (1970).

Hooke, Robert


Born July 18, 1635, on the Isle of Wight; died Mar. 3, 1703, in London. British natural philosopher. Member of the Royal Society in London (1663).

In 1653, Hooke entered Oxford University, where he later became an assistant to R. Boyle. In 1665 he became a professor at Gresham College, and from 1677 to 1683 he was secretary of the Royal Society in London. A resourceful scientist and inventor, Hooke dealt with many aspects of natural science in his work. In 1659 he constructed an air pump. Around 1660 he and C. Huygens established fixed points for the thermometer—the melting point of ice and the boiling point of water. Hooke improved the barometer and the reflecting telescope, used a terrestrial telescope to measure angles, and constructed an instrument for measuring the force of the wind, a machine for dividing a circle, and other instruments.

In 1660, Hooke made the very important discovery that the force applied to an elastic body is proportional to its deformation. This is known as Hooke’s law. He stated the concept that all celestial bodies attract one another, and he gave a general picture of planetary motion. Hooke anticipated Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and in 1679 he expressed the opinion that if the attractive force is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, a planet should move in an ellipse. He believed in the wave theory of light, questioned the corpuscular theory, and considered heat the result of the mechanical motion of particles of a substance.

Using a microscope that he had perfected, Hooke observed the structure of plants and made a clear drawing that was the first to show the cellular structure of cork. (Hooke introduced the term “cell.”) He also described the structure of cells of the elder, dill, and carrot.

In Hooke’s opinion, changes in the earth’s surface entailed changes in fauna. He considered fossils to be the remains of organisms that had once existed and believed that they could be used to reconstruct the earth’s history.

Hooke was also known as an architect. He designed several buildings, most of which are in London.


Micrographia, or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies. . . . London, 1665.
Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva. London, 1678.
An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth From Observations. London, 1674.
Lectiones Cutlerianae. London, 1679.
Posthumous Works. London, 1705.
In Russian translation:
Obshchaia skhema, ili ideia nastoiashchego sostoianiia estestvennoi filosofii. In Nauchnoe nasledstvo: Estestvenno-nauchnaia seriia, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad 1948.