March 27, 2006

“Missing link” science manuscript up for sale

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - A manuscript charting the birth of
modern science, lost for more than 200 years, goes on sale on
Tuesday with a price tag in excess of one million pounds.

Hailed as "science's missing link," the journal of Robert
Hooke contains details of experiments he conducted as curator
at the Royal Society from 1662 and his correspondence as its
secretary from 1677.

It was found by chance in a cupboard at a private house in
Hampshire by experts from auctioneer Bonhams conducting a
routine valuation.

The notes include a celebrated row between Hooke and Isaac
Newton over planetary motion and gravity, and the lost record
confirming the first observation of microbes by Antoni van

Hooke was a keen observer of nature with a fascination for
things mechanical but, because of ill health as a child, he was
initially left largely to educate himself.

A talented artist, he was sent to London on the death of
his father John -- a country curate -- to study under leading
portrait painter Peter Lely.

He went on to study first at Westminster School and then
Christ College, Oxford where he won a place as a chorister.

There he studied astronomy, tried his hand at mechanical
flight and rubbed shoulders with top scientists of the day.

A meeting of these scientists in November 1660 founded the
Society for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental
Learning which in mid-1662 received a Royal charter and became
the Royal Society of London.

In 1665 Hooke finally found fame with publication of his
Micrographia containing pictures of objects he had studied
through a microscope he had made himself, and a number of
biological discoveries.

Diarist Samuel Pepys said of the book that it was the most
ingenious he had ever read.

But his talents did not stop there.

Hooke discovered that Jupiter revolved on its own axis,
suggested that gravity could be measured using a pendulum and,
as a talented architect, was chief assistant to Christopher
Wren in rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666.

He also suggested the presence of gravitational 'vortices'
pulling comets from their orbit, and invented the reflecting
telescope, the sextant, the punched-paper record-keeper, the
wind gauge, the worm gear and the wheel barometer.

But he fell out with Newton when he accused him of stealing
from his original ideas when he produced his theory of light
and color in 1672, and Newton removed all reference to Hooke
from his famed Principia.

Despite Hooke's huge contribution to science and
understanding, the only innovation to bear his name is Hooke's
Law -- ut tensio sic vis (extension is proportional to force) -
the shortest law in physics.

Hooke died in London in March 1703 aged 67.