About

About Felicity Henderson

I wrote my PhD on seventeenth-century satire, based at Monash University, Melbourne. This was where I first encountered the Royal Society, through the satirical poems written about their activities by other Londoners (I’ll blog about them at some point, they’re quite funny. Well, mildly amusing anyway). I came to the UK to do postdoctoral research at Cambridge University, where I was Munby Fellow in Bibliography. Then I worked on the AHRC-funded project ‘Free-thinking and language-planning in late seventeenth century London’ editing the works of Francis Lodwick FRS, merchant, unorthodox religious thinker, and writer on universal languages. I worked for five years as Events and Exhibitions Manager at the Royal Society’s Centre for History of Science where I managed the Society’s history of science public programme. I’m now Lecturer in Archives and Material Culture in the English Department at the University of Exeter. I am editing Robert Hooke’s diary for Oxford University Press and I’m also working on several other academic projects, including the research network ‘Origins of Science as a Visual Pursuit‘.

About Robert Hooke

This blog is more or less dedicated to telling you about Robert Hooke (1635-1703) but here it is in a nutshell. The son of an Isle of Wight clergyman, he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University. In Oxford he met Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, and other proto-scientists – connections that changed his life. When he moved back to London he soon became involved with the newly-founded Royal Society (1660-) as their first ‘curator of experiments’. He was the most wide-ranging scientific researcher of the Restoration period, at the cutting edge of physics, astronomy, microscopy, physiology, and geology, and inventor of instruments and devices for everything from recording the weather to sampling deep sea water. After the great fire of London in 1666 Hooke was appointed as one of the offical surveyors overseeing the rebuilding. He designed a number of buildings himself, including the Monument, and he worked closely with Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral. He left an incomplete diary spanning the period 1672-1693, so we also know a lot about his active social life – his visits to coffee-houses and bookshops, his network of friends and associates, his conversations, his health, his arguments. He rarely left London, and his diary is fascinating for its insight into City life in the Restoration. Hooke died in 1703, and while many of his achievements were overshadowed by his more famous associates, he stands quite rightly amongst the great pioneering British scientists.

About this blog

The posts on this blog arise from my ongoing academic research into Hooke and the early Royal Society. Like most academic work, they contain a mixture of material drawn from primary sources and material drawn from secondary sources (mostly the former). Unlike formal articles published in peer-reviewed journals, they do not generally cite sources because they are intended for a wide audience and are short pieces of ‘work in progress’ rather than polished arguments. Therefore I suggest readers should not cite factual material from these posts in their essays, dissertations or articles. If you do want to use something, please get in touch with me and I can point you towards a peer-reviewed publication or the original manuscript or printed sources.

4 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: Tom Sleigh | Councillor for Bishopsgate – City of London » Three remarkable documents from the City of London archives

  2. Felicity: I understand Hooke makes an entry, somewhere and perhaps not in his diary, that dull days made his microscope work difficult. I am curious as to the date he made such entries because we all assume (wrongly) that he used an oil lamp from the onset. My interest in the date is because early microscopists probably relied upon sunlight (see the illustration in Jerhemiah Grew (1675) Anatomy of Plants, Paris, Roullaud) and so perhaps this entry, or series of entries, helps narrow down when he began using an oil lamp.

    • Hi Stephen, I wonder if the reference is to the Preface of Micrographia, where Hooke talks at length about the problem of getting light onto his specimens. You can see the pages I mean here (this and the following page):
      http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/HistSciTech/HistSciTech-idx?type=turn&entity=HistSciTech.HookeMicro.p0030&id=HistSciTech.HookeMicro&isize=M
      Hooke does talk here about using a lamp for his observations, which he says is particularly important if you want to do microscopy at night. He also includes a diagram of his set-up in the first plate of Micrographia, showing the lamp and also a glass globe filled with ‘clear Brine’ that he used to direct light from the lamp onto his specimen. So I think it’s fairly clear he was using a lamp and not just daylight in the early 1660s – I don’t have any evidence for his earlier practice, if that was different. You might read Henry Power’s book ‘Experimental Philosophy’ to see whether he talks about using lamps or daylight for his microscopy.

      Best wishes,
      Felicity

  3. Felicity,
    I have a Centennial Copy of Micrographia and I am familiar with those passages. No, there is another source that I came across while idly browsing Hooke related stuff a year or so ago, where he does mention ‘a dull day and so no play’ kind of sentiment. Of course like a fool I didn’t pay it much heed at the time and lost the reference. I will keep poking around and if it ever surfaces again I will pass it along. I’m planing on giving a talk to my Uni. colleagues on the early devlp of the microscope with the subtitle “unofficial history of the microscope… and the usual sad tale of unsung heroes, usurpers and scumbags”. I think Hooke falls into the former category myself.
    Have you seen: http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2015/12/11/rsnr.2015.0057
    it’s a little longwinded in places, but a decent point of view.
    Keep up the good work.
    Stephen

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