The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 29. Robert Hooke

Robert Hooke, a Westminster boy and, later, a student at Christ Church, was at once instructor and assistant to Boyle. The year that the Royal Society received their charter, they appointed Hooke curator, and his duty was “to furnish the Society” every day they met with three or four considerable experiments. This amazing task he fulfilled in spite of the fact that “the fabrication of instruments for experiments was not commonly known to workmen,” and that he never received “above £50 a year and that not certain.” Hooke was a man of amazing versatility, very self-confident, attacking problems in all branches of science, greatly aiding their advance, but avid of fame.

  • In person but dispicable, being crooked and low in nature and as he grew older more and more deformed. He was always very pale and lean and latterly nothing but skin and bone.
  • His active, jealous mind conceived that almost every discovery of his time had been there initiated; and this anxiety to claim “priority” induced Newton to suppress his treatise Optics until after the date of Hooke’s death. His book Micrographia, “a most excellent piece, of which I am very proud,” as Pepys has it, is the record of what a modern schoolboy newly introudced to the microscope would write down. Yet he was undoubtedly, although not a lovable character, the best “mechanic of his age.”