ROBERT HOOKE (1635 - 1703). Micrographia, or, Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses. With Observations and Inquiries Thereupon. London: Printed by J. Martyn and J. Allestry, 1665.

Educated at Oxford, Robert Hooke was elected Professor of Geometry at Oxford in 1665, where he concentrated on the invention of mechanical devices, the development of the microscope, and the study of astronomy. In 1660, Hooke discovered the law of elasticity ("As the extension, so the force") which bears his name. From 1677 to 1682 he acted as Secretary to the Royal Society of London, a group of distinguished gentlemen scientists. In fact, Hooke's Micrographia was one of the first books published under the auspices of the Royal Society.

When the Micrographia first appeared in the bookshops in January 1665 at a lavish thirty shillings per copy, it had a quite sensational impact. It bowled the diarist Samuel Pepys (1633 - 1703) right over and transfixed him in his chair until two o'clock in the morning; "the most ingenious booke that ever I read in my life". The thirty-eight magnificent plates were engraved from drawings by the author himself and some reputedly by the architect Christopher Wren (1632 - 1723). They include startling portraits of the flea and louse, blown up to frightening proportions.

In addition to its contributions to microscopy, Micrographia contains many other important inventions and discoveries, including the wheel barometer and a new hygrometer. It also presents the first substantial opposing theory to the Pythagorean concept of light as a stream of particles, hypothesizing that light is a vibration transmitted through a medium. Hooke's research inspired Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727) to carry out the optical experiments with prisms that led to his book Opticks.

The Micrographia is important to crystallography for Hooke's independent suggestion that crystals are composed of close-packed arrangements of spheres, as first described by Johannes Kepler. But Hooke went much farther in discussing how such arrangements could explain the various shapes of crystals. The Micrographia also contains the first depictions of magnified snowflakes, although they appear in rather stylized form.

Geoffrey Keynes, A Bibliography of Dr. Robert Hooke. Gloucestershire: Clarendon Press, 1960.

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