The John Hooke Tragedy

to Isle of Wight History Centre
The Scientist, The Grocer, The Governor and Grace. Full commentary
Hooke's Diary Extracts from Robert Hooke's diary 1672-1680
Newport Corporation Documents relating to the suicide of John Hooke.
Hooke Family Tree
John Hooke Timeline
Hooke Family Home
Freshwater area in the 17th century
Hooke and Geology
Freshwater Parish
Robert Hooke Timeline
Sir Robert Holmes Timeline
Character Glossary



Robert Hooke

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants"

Isaac Newton in a letter to Robert Hooke, 5 February, 1676.
Stained glass image of Robert Hooke from St. Helen,s Church
Robert Hooke's signature

1635 Born in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.
1648 Moved to London and developed his artistic skills in the studio of the painter Sir Peter Lely.
Accepted into prestigious Westminster school by Dr.Richard Busby, headmaster.
1653 Took up a poor scholar’s place at Christ Church, Oxford University.
Employed by the anatomist Dr. Thomas Willis as a chemical assistant.
1657 Developing springs and spiral springs instead of pendulums in his development of the pocket watch. He describes it as a "circular Pendulum".
1658 Became a paid assistant to the scientist Robert Boyle, remaining in Boyle's employ from 1657-62.
1662 With the help of Boyle, Hooke secured the job as Curator of Experiments for the Royal Society, which he held from 1662 - 77 at £30/year plus the privilege of lodging at Gresham College. His task, three to four major experiments each week to be reported on and/or demonstrated to the Royal Society. (performed it excellently for forty one years until his death.)
Map of the area, where Hooke lived in London
1. = Gresham College. Robert Hooke lived in lodgings on the premises.
2 = Main area of coffee houses, which Robert Hooke frequented.
3 = St. Helen's Church, where Robert Hooke was buried.
1663 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
1664 Appointed Lecturer on mechanics ( Cutlerian Lectures), £50/year-but he had trouble collecting this money and had to take Cutler to court.
Developed spring-balance clock.
1665 Appointed Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, £50/year.
Published his "Micrographia", a book with elaborate drawings of various objects under the microscope, accompanied by an accessible prose commentary : "the most ingenious booke that I ever read in my life" (Pepys).
Plague in London. Hooke, in company with the scientist, Wilkins, retire to Durdans, near Epsom to continue various experiments.

The title page of Hooke's famous 'Micrographia', published in 1665.

An example of the engravings from Hooke's 'Micrographia': a close-up picture of the common fly.
1666 Published a work on the nature of comets, entitled "Cometa".
The Great Fire of London. Hooke was appointed surveyor of London, to reestablish property lines and to supervise the rebuilding, along with Sir Christopher Wren, from 1666 - 1676. Designed many buildings including Montague House, the Royal College of Physicians, Bedlam and Bethlehem Hospital.

Bethlem Hospital in Moorfields, which was designed and built by Robert Hooke.

The Monument designed by Hooke to commemorate the 1666 Fire.

Montague House. Designed by Hooke for private clients.

c.1672 Hooke’s niece, Grace Hooke, came to live with him in London.
1672 First confrontation between Hooke and Newton. Newton had written a paper on his demonstration of white light being a composite of other colours. It was presented to the Royal Society but Newton was met with a strong rebuff by Hooke.
1673 Newton threatened to leave the Royal Society. After much gushing of admiration, respect, etc. on Oldenburg's (Secretary of the Royal Society) part, as well as an offer to wave dues to the Society, Newton changed his mind.
1675 Dispute between Hooke and the Dutch scientist Huygens concerning the invention of the balance-spring watch.
Publication of "Description of Helioscopes" with a postscript about his invention of the balance-spring mechanism.
1676 Thomas Shadwell’s successful play, The Virtuoso, satirising The Royal Society and, so Hooke felt, himself.
1677 Henry Oldenburg's death. Hooke succeeded him to the post of Secretary of the Royal Society, while still maintaining his responsibilities as Curator.
Secretary of the Royal Society, 1677-83.
Grace Hooke, his niece, courted by Sir Robert Holmes.
1678 Publication of his treatise on elasticity, "De Potentia Bestitutiva or Of Spring", upon which is based today’s familiar Hooke’s Law.
Suicide of brother John in Newport, I.W.
1684 Major confrontation between Hooke and Newton. It concerned Newton's Principia, and the involvement Hooke had in it. Newton claimed Hooke had none, but a closer look at the events prior to the Principia's publication, leave little doubt that Hooke was indeed involved. The Principia was published, without recognition to Hooke.
Death of Grace Hooke, his live-in companion and house-keeper. His health declined at a greater rate after this.
1703 March 3. Death of Robert Hooke, having been blind and bedridden for the last year of his life.

For a more detailed life of Robert Hooke, see the timeline at