Friday 16 August 1689:
“the yellow Dust of Sunflower. like amber balls with prickles”
This is maybe my all-time favourite Hooke quote – the virtuoso microscopist, noting in his diary what was perhaps the first observation of sunflower pollen – and achieving a kind of poetry with his characteristically terse prose. Nehemiah Grew had already described the pollen of other flowers in his Anatomy of Plants published in 1682 (see page 169), so it wasn’t breaking news, but Hooke was intrigued enough to draw a little diagram in the middle of his diary entry.
The main aim of the early Fellows of the Royal Society was to enquire after ‘matters of fact’. They used a variety of methods to pursue facts, one of which was collecting man-made and natural artefacts. The first historian of the Royal Society, Thomas Sprat, wrote in 1667 that the Royal Society intended to make ‘a General Collection of all the Effects of Arts, and the Common, or Monstrous Works of Nature’. Indeed, he claimed, they had already made a good start on this project:
‘they have already drawn together into one Room, the greatest part of all the several kinds of things, that are scatter’d throughout the Universe’.