Robert Hooke

Physicist / Inventor

Born: 18 July 1635
Died: 3 March 1703
Birthplace: Freshwater, England
Best known as: The author of 1665's Micrographia
Robert Hooke was the English scientist and inventor who wrote the 1665 book Micrographia, in which he coined the term "cell" for a basic biological structure. A gifted student with a particular talent for mechanics, Hooke was educated at Oxford, where he assisted Robert Boyle with his successful air pump experiments. A member of the Royal Society from 1663, Hooke was accomplished in astronomy, biology, physics and architecture, and his skill as an instrument maker gave him an edge over his contemporaries. He argued with Isaac Newton over the nature of light and gravity, and their long-running debate is said to have left both men forever bitter toward each other. Hooke's studies of springs and elasticity led to his enunciation of "Hooke's Law" (a spring's extension is proportional to the weight hanging from it), and he is credited with inventing the balance spring that allowed for the making of small, accurate timepieces. He also invented a reflecting microscope, the universal joint, and a variety of clocks, barometers and optical devices. Although not a surveyor or architect by profession, Hooke was named London's Surveyor after the Great Fire of 1666 and, with Christopher Wren, given the task of rebuilding the city.
Extra credit: Hooke discovered in 1664 that Gamma Arietis was a binary star... It was in a letter to Hooke that Isaac Newton wrote his famous line, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

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