The Curious Life of Robert Hooke by Lisa Jardine
The Man Who Measured London

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Synopsis

The brilliant, largely forgotten maverick Robert Hooke was an engineer, surveyor, architect and inventor who was appointed London's Chief Surveyor after the Great Fire of 1666. Throughout the 1670s he worked tirelessly with his intimate friend Christopher Wren to rebuild London, personally designing many notable public and private buildings, including the Monument to the Fire. He was the first Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society, and the author and illustrator of Micrographia, a lavishly illustrated volume of fascinating engravings of natural phenomena as seen under the new microscope. He designed an early balance spring watch, was a virtuoso performer of public anatomical dissections of animals, and kept himself going with liberal doses of cannabis and "poppy water"(laudanum).

Hooke's personal diaries -- cryptically confessional as anything Pepys wrote -- record a life rich with melodrama. He came to London as a fatherless boy of thirteen to seek his fortune as a painter, rising by his wits to become an intellectual celebrity. He never married but formed a long-running illicit liaison with his niece. A dandy, boaster, workaholic, insomniac and inveterate socializer in London's most fashionable circles, Hooke had an irascible temper, and his passionate idealism proved fatal for his relationships with men of influence -- most notably Sir Isaac Newton, who, after one violent argument, wiped Hooke's name from the Royal Society records and destroyed his portrait.

In this lively and absorbing biography, Lisa Jardine at last does Hooke and his achievements justice. Illuminating London's critical role in the emergence of modern science, she rediscovers and decodes a great original thinker of indefatigable curiosity and imagination, a major figure in the seventeenth-century intellectual and scientific revolution.

 

About Lisa Jardine

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Lisa Jardine, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, is the director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, the centenary professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She lives with her husband and three children in London.
 
Published February 3, 2004 by Harper. 432 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Curious Life of Robert Hooke

Kirkus Reviews

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Jardine’s is the first full-scale portrait since 1956 of the cantankerous Hooke (1635–1703), a member of the Royal Society, co-restorer with Wren of London after the Great Fire of 1666, extraordinarily gifted inventor, designer, builder, artist, and scientist.

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The New York Times

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Lisa Jardine takes as her subject a man less than heroic, famous not for discoveries but for feuding over claims to discovery.

Apr 25 2004 | Read Full Review of The Curious Life of Robert Ho...

The Guardian

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The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London by Lisa Jardine 352pp, HarperCollins, £25 Just over 300 years ago, in March 1703, Robert Hooke died in his rooms at Gresham College, London.

Sep 13 2003 | Read Full Review of The Curious Life of Robert Ho...

The Guardian

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The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London by Lisa Jardine HarperCollins £25, pp323 When Isaac Newton conceded that he had only been able to see so far into the scientific future by 'standing on the shoulders of giants', it was Robert Hooke's shoulders to which he was referring.

Oct 05 2003 | Read Full Review of The Curious Life of Robert Ho...

Spectator Book Club

But the awful truth is that Hooke (1635-1703) was minor, not minor in the nice, comfy way in which many prefer MacNeice to Auden, Poulenc to Messaien, Frink to Moore, Vaughan to Sutherland;

Oct 04 2003 | Read Full Review of The Curious Life of Robert Ho...

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