10 interesting facts you might not know about Robert Hooke

Categories: Springtelligence|691 words|3.5 min read|By |Published On: June 21st, 2018|

Robert Hooke was a famous scientist best known for his discovery of the Law of Elasticity (now known as ‘Hooke’s Law’) and his published book of sketches – Micrographia. Despite this eponymous law being what Robert Hooke is most known for, there is so much more to this iconic figure in engineering than this discovery.

Robert Hooke
Figure 1 – Robert Hooke

In this blog post, we look at 10 interesting facts about Robert Hooke which you might not know…

    1. Robert Hooke was born in Freshwater, Isle of Wight on 18th July 1635 to vicar John Hooke and his second wife Cecily Hooke (formerly Cecily Gyles).
    2. At the age of 13, Hooke travelled to London and worked as an apprentice for painter Peter Lely. However, he had to leave this position as the fumes from the paint pigments caused unbearable headaches.
    3. His interest in art led to him making his own materials from a young age. He would use resources like iron ore, coal and chalk. Hooke also displayed inherent mechanical know-how; he made a sundial from scratch and a toy sailing boat that could fire small canons!
    4. Many of Robert Hooke’s discoveries were made during his attendance at Christ Church college, Oxford University e.g. the balance spring. He enrolled here in 1653 aged 18. He also published a short piece about capillary attraction during his time there, which alerted the Royal Society to his work.
    5. In 1655, at the age of 20, Hooke moved to Oxford and became assistant to chemist Robert Boyle – who is also best known for his eponymous law. Boyle’s Law states that – when at a constant temperature – the pressure exerted by a gas is inversely proportional to the volume of its mass.
Robert Boyle
Figure 2 – Robert Boyle
  1. In 1662, Robert Hooke became curator of the Royal Society – founded two years prior. He remained in this role for 40 years, which involved producing experimental demonstrations for the weekly society meetings.
  2. Upon his discovery of the law of elasticity, Hooke published it as an anagram: “ceiiinosssttuv” … have you deciphered it yet? (!) Two years after its publication, Hooke revealed that this unscrambled to read “ut tensio, sic vis”; this translates to “as the extension, so the force”. Scientists like Galileo Galilei, Christiaan Huygens, etc. also applied anagrams in this way. Anagrams established responsibility for discoveries without revealing any of the details and risking plagiarism.
  3. 40 years before Hooke joined the Royal Society, Galileo invented the microscope; Hooke subsequently bought one to conduct research into plants, mould and insects. This led to his discoveries of fossils in sand, mould spores and the bloodsucking nature of life and mosquitos.
  4. Hooke had a lesser-known interest in meteorology, creating a leaflet called ‘The Observables for Making a History of the Weather’ in 1663. In this pamphlet, Hooke remarks that a good weather observer can not only observe the “Degrees of Heat and Cold in the Air observed by a sealed Thermometer”, but also pay attention to “what effects are produced upon other bodies: as what Aches and Distempers are in the bodies of men; what diseases are most rife, as Colds, Fevers, Agues, etc. What putrefactions or other changes are produced, as the sweating of Marble, the blasting of Trees and Corn, the plenty or scarcity of insects, and anything notable of that kind”.
  5. Robert Hooke died in London on 3rd March 1703, and was buried at St Helen’s Bishopsgate. Hooke was very wealthy at the time of his death; an iron chest found in his room contained close to £1 million in today’s money. Despite his regularly-voiced intentions of leaving a generous amount of his wealth to the Royal Society, no will was found. The money subsequently passed on to his illiterate cousin Elizabeth Stephens.

To find out more about Robert Hooke, visit our other blogs about Hooke and his work:

What Did Robert Hooke Discover?
Hooke’s Law Explained

If you’d like information about our work at JB Springs manufacturing quality compression springs, tension springs, torsion springs and wireform parts, please get in touch through our Contact Page or visit our other webpages.