Hooke, Robert (hŏk) [key], 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 elasticity), 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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.