1635 18 July Born Freshwater, Isle of Wight, son of The Rev John Hooke, curate to the parish. RH is intended for the Church, but headaches and a sickly constitution decree otherwise. Occupies himself in making mechanical toys.
1648 October Death of father; RH goes to London as the pupil of the painter Sir Peter Lely - is allergic to the smell of paint. Then enters Westminster School in the house of Dr Busby
1653 Enters Christ Church, Oxford. Close friend of Wren, also 'Alumnus Westmonasteriensis', who came up to Wadham in 1650.
1655 Comminicates 'artifices for flying' to John Wilkins (Wadham College), studies astronomy with Seth Ward, assist Thomas Willis in Chemistry and is recommended by him to Robert Boyle. Assists Boyle in construction of the air pump.
1658 Applied the circular pendulum to watches; refuses terms of a patent negotiated by Boyle. Discovery remains unknown until 1675.
1661 Publishes article on capillary attraction, later included in Micrographia.
1662 12 November Appointed Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society.
1663 3 June Elected FRS
19 Oct Royal Society's Repository committed to RH's care.
1664 9 May First to infer the rotation of Jupiter
June Sir John Cutler founds a lecture for RH at a salary of 50 p.a. Reads astronomical lectures at Gresham College as locum for Dr Pope 1664-65
July Found the number of vibrations corresponding to musical notes.
17 September Discovers fifth star in the Orion trapezium
1665 11 January RH's post of Curator at the Royal Society is made permanent at a salary of 30 p.a. with apartments in Gresham College, Bishopsgate St. RH lives there for the remainder of his life.

Early inquiries include: the nature of the air and its relationship to respiration and combustion; specific weights; the laws of falling bodies; improvements to diving-bells; methods of telegraphy; the relationship of barometric readings to the weather; fixes the thermometrical zero at the freezing-point of water; invents a machine for cutting gear-wheels.

20 March Nominated Professor of Geometry, Gresham College.

Micrographia is published. Contains amongst other things: earliest investigation of the colours of thin plates of mica with an explanation based on interference; comment on the 'black spot' in soap bubbles; a theory of light as a transverse vibrational motion; a definition of heat as a propety of a body arising from the vibration of its parts; a discourse on the true nature of combustion.

Whilst plague is in London, RH is at Epsom, employed as Philosophical Assistant to Dr Wilkins and Sir William Petty at Durdans, the seat of the Earl of Berkeley.
1666 12 March Drawings of Mars enable its period of rotation to be found more than 200 years later. (RH shows here his tendency to make superb observations which he then loses interest in and leaves others to develop.)
21 March Meetings of Royal Society are resumed, RH reads  a discourse on gravity and suggests measuring its force by means of a pendulum.
May Reads paper on curvilinear motion and shows that the cente of gravity of the earth and the moon describes an ellipse around the sun. Presents to the Royal Society the first screw-divided quadrant, an anemometer, and a 'weather-clock'.
Sat under a bell-jar whilst the air was pumped out from it....
1 August Communicates observations of the comet of 1664 to the Royal Society.
1667 12 June Discourse on the effect of earthquakes.
19 September Exhibited a model for the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire.This was not adopted, but he was appointed (by the City authorities) a City Surveyor together with Edward Jerman and Peter Mills and also (appointed by the King) Wren, Hugh May and Roger Pratt. Hooke and Wren jointly are responsible for The Monument to the Great Fire.

RH designs the Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam); Montague House; the Royal College of Physicians (all demolished in the 19th century): and Ragley Hall (Warwickshire); and for his old Head Master at Westminster, Willen Church in Buckinghamshire.

Explains the scintillation of stars.

1669 July - October Earliest attempt at measuring the parallax of a fixed star - his results lead to Bradley's discovery of stellar aberration.
1670 Delivers Cutlerian Lectures dealing with the above experiments.
1672 15 Feb Publishes paper on diffraction of light, objecting to Newton's communication on this subject to the Royal Society in January.
1674 Publishes 'An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth by Observations'; this records the first observation of a star in daylight.

Controversy with Hevelius, author of 'Machina Celestis'; a series of Cutlerian Lectures finds RH making acrid remarks on "that curoius and pompous book".

Constructs the first Gregorian telescope.

1675 9 & 16 Dec Newton's 'Discourse on Colour' evokes objections from Hooke on the grounds that "the main of it was contained in Micrographia". The argument is resolved with Newton claiming originality but acknowledging important obligations to RH's work.
Huyghens re-discovers the spiral spring applied to watches; RH then has Thomas Tompion make some of his 'new watches'.
1676 Publishes the principles of the spiral springs in 'A Description of Helioscopes'. This starts a quarrel with Oldenburg (Secretary of the Royal Society) who RH accuses of being "a trafficker in intelligence".
1677 RH obliged by the Royal Society to withdraw his comment on Oldenburg; this was contained in 'Lampas, or a Description of some Mechanical Improvements of Lamps and Water-poises'.
25 Oct RH becomes Secretary to the Royal Society on Oldenburg's death.
1678 'Cometa', dealing with the great comet of 1677 and including a statement of the Law of Inverse Squares and the effect of the Sun on comet tails; 'Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva' give virtually the present notions of elasticity and the kinetic theory of gases
1679 Letter from RH to Newton induces the latter to 'resume his former thoughts concerning the Moon'. The publication of this work in 'Principia' led to protest from Hooke that he 'gave Newton the first hint of this invention'. Newton's irritation leads to his suppressing 'Opticks' until after Hooke's death.
1682 RH begins to adopt a policy of secrecy to guard against supposed infringements of his rights.
30 Nov RH ceases to be Secretary to the Royal Society.
1684 Describes a practical system of telegraphy.
Other inventions include: an odometer, an 'otocousticon' as an aid to hearing, a reflecting quadrant, a wheel barometer, the anchor escapement of clocks, the universal joint; other suggestions include the true principle of the arch, anticipation of the method for showing nodal lines in vibrating surfaces, the motion of the Sun among the stars, correct notions as to the nature of fossils and the succession of living things on Earth.
1687 Grace Hooke, RH's niece and housekeeper (but more likely his 'common-law' wife) dies, which affects Hooke's spirits profoundly.
1691 Dec Created Doctor of Physic at Doctors' Commons
1692 Reads a 'curious discourse' on the Tower of Babel to the Royal Society.
1693 Expounds on Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'.
1696 June Royal Society offers to pay for experiments - but Hooke's health is failing. Chancery suit over his salary settled in his favour.
1700 Halley describes RH's last invention, a marine telescope, to the Royal Society.
1702-3 RH becomes blind and legs swell - possibly a consequence of diabetes.
1703 3 March RH dies at Gresham College; is buried at St Helen's Bishopsgate.

His remains were exhumed and reburied in 'North London' sometime in the 19th century. The Hooke Memorial Window was destroyed in the Bishopsgate bombing in the 1980's.


Site contents    Home Page

e-mail: webmaster