March 28, 2006

Royal Society to house Hooke journal

LONDON (Reuters) - A last-minute deal reached on Tuesday
ensures a manuscript charting the birth of modern science, lost
for more than 200 years, will be housed at the Royal Society
rather than falling into private hands.

Hailed as "science's missing link," the journal of Robert
Hooke had been due to go on sale at auction with a price tag in
excess of 1 million pounds.

But just before the sale was due to take place, auctioneers
Bonhams said an anonymous private bidder had agreed to buy it
and give it to the Royal Society, Britain's academy of leading
scientists, which had said it could not afford to buy it.

"This is great news for science and great news for
Britain," said Lord Rees of Ludlow, President of the Royal

"Robert Hooke was a colossal figure in the founding of
modern science, and these documents represent an irreplaceable
record of his contribution," he said, adding that the payment
amounted to "about 1 million pounds."

The journal contains details of experiments Hooke conducted
as curator at the Royal Society from 1662 and his
correspondence as secretary from 1677. It was found by chance
in a cupboard at a private house in the county of Hampshire.

The notes include Hooke's row with Isaac Newton over
planetary motion and gravity, and the lost record confirming
the first observation of microbes by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.

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.

He studied astronomy at Christ Church College, Oxford and
helped found the Royal Society in the early 1660s.

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.

Hooke also discovered that Jupiter revolved on its own
axis, suggested that gravity could be measured using a pendulum
and invented, among other things, the reflecting telescope.

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.