Famous 17th century Brit scientist’s papers now available on the net

November 14th, 2007 - 1:48 am ICT by admin  
According to The Times, the innovative “digital folio” provides unprecedented public access to hundreds of pages of manuscript notes and minutes kept by Hooke, who is sometimes described as Britain’s Leonardo da Vinci.

The remarkable collection contains Hooke’s minutes of early meetings of the Royal Society, taken while he was curator of experiments and then secretary of the national academy of science, between 1661 and 1692.

They record many of the scientist’s own experiments and others conducted by figures such as Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren, as well as the disputes and rivalries that arose among the founding fathers of British science.

While most other Royal Society minutes from the period have been preserved in its archives, Hooke’s notes were thought to have been lost, most likely stolen. They were the only part of its records to be missing since it was established in 1660.

Early last year, it emerged that the documents had been rediscovered in a cupboard at a house in Hampshire, and put up for auction. Though the Royal Society initially sought to have them returned as stolen, it eventually raised almost a million pounds to buy them with a grant from the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest biomedical science charity.

The 520-page Hooke folio, which includes descriptions of the first sperm seen through a microscope and discussions about gravity between Hooke and Newton, is too fragile to be handled regularly.

The Royal Society has made its pages available on the internet, with a commentary.

Professor Lisa Jardine of Queen Mary, University of London, who is also adviser to the Royal Society’s collections and Hooke’s biographer, has led the team transcribing the work.

“Hooke’s manuscripts give us an insight into the intellectual wonder and excitement during the 16th and 17th century,” Jardine was quoted, as saying.

Hooke’s achievements included Hooke’s law of elasticity, Hooke’s universal joint, and discoveries in microscopy including the cellular structure of plants. He invented the iris diaphragm in cameras, the balance wheel in watches, and coined the word “cell”.

Hooke, a clergyman’s son, was born on the Isle of Wight in 1635 and died a recluse in 1703. His pursuits included astronomy, anatomy and microscopy; he was an architect, draughtsman and designer of technical instruments

After the Fire of London in 1666, he was appointed city surveyor, and laid out the plans for the rebuilt city. He was a close friend of Sir Christopher Wren, but an enemy of Sir Isaac Newton. (ANI)

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