Robert Hooke: biography and contributions of this English researcher

Robert Hooke is the scientist who invented the concept of “cell”, whose contributions throughout his scientific career have contributed to the development of biology and physics.

Hooke also had a prolific career developed in other very different fields (watchmaking or chronometry, microscopy, astronomy, medicine, nautical and architecture), so he was nicknamed the English Leonardo da Vinci.

However, despite his great scientific contributions, he did not receive much recognition. In addition, he had a strong confrontation with Isaac Newton who was very famous.

In this biography of Robert Hooke we will review the life of this researcher, as well as an explanation of his most important findings.

    Brief biography of Robert Hooke

    Robert Hooke was born July 18, 1635 on the Isle of Wight, the largest island in England. Son of Cecily Gyles and John Hooke, an Anglican clergyman who devoted himself to teaching his son because he could not attend school for lack of financial resources.

    His father died when he was only 13 years old. Orphaned by his father at such a young age, he immediately had to go to work.

    His first job was as a portrait assistant very popular at the time on the Isle of Wight, although he complained that the oils and varnishes he used irritated his chest, so he quit his job.

    Early Years: Westminster School

    After quitting his job, Hooke began studying at Westminster School, a very important school located in London. There he attended all kinds of meetings on science and philosophy, among other areas of great interest to him.

    At Westminster School he was an exceptional student. At the age of 18 he was awarded a scholarship as a chorister at Christ Church College, Oxford., which is the Church of the Diocese of Oxford, belonging to the University of Oxford. There he had the opportunity to receive a good academic education and, since he was a scholarship student, he also had to collaborate with homework.

    During these years he focused on academic development in order to earn a living and thus have a better future, starting as an assistant in a laboratory, where he quickly distinguished himself with a series of discoveries that ‘he did. It was then that he began to forge his passion for science, taking an interest in a wide variety of scientific works.. It was then that he met the members of the Royal Society, who supported him in his scientific career.

      His time at the Royal Society

      The Royal Society of London is the oldest scientific society in the United Kingdom, officially founded in 1662. However, years before, the founding scientists met regularly. Robert hooke he was a member of this society for 40 years, starting as an assistant to the philosopher, chemist, physicist and inventor Robert Boyle..

      The first major work he did as Boyle’s assistant was the development of an air pump that was used to compress air and produce a vacuum. This bomb was used by Boyle to conclude his experiment on the formulation of the law of gases (Boyle’s law), whose main postulate is that the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its pressure.

        Contributions to science by Robert Hooke

        In addition to his work as Boyle’s assistant, Hooke made some great discoveries, including the following.

        1. Law of elasticity

        While working as Boyle’s assistant, Hooke developed the theory called “Hooke’s Law”. This law was postulated to explain that when a spring is stretched, its elongation is directly proportional to the modulus of force with which it is performed.

        This theory has given rise to several scientific studies which allow us today to make various predictions in the field of engineering and physics, for example when designing a bridge, it will be possible to calculate the effect it will have on the weight of passing vehicles. through it and thus know the materials to build the bridge that will be necessary to support this load.

          2. Capillarity

          In his work published in 1665 under the name of “Micrography”, Hooke explains his discoveries on capillarity. and states that as the water and other fluids exit through narrow glass tubes, the height at which the water reaches was directly related to the diameter of the tube through which it passes. In addition, this work became a scientific bestseller, being the first in history, and was also the first to show drawings of images captured by light microscopy.

          3. Cell and cell theory

          Using the microscope, Hooke he observed that there was a series of small blocky-shaped cavities in the leaf, quite similar to a beehive. He then baptized each of these cavities with the name of “cell”, without knowing the great relevance of these cavities in the constitution of living beings, and this is because what he saw were in reality dead plant cells.

          Thanks to this observation, a few years later, the composition of the tissue of living things was discovered and also served to postulate a theory on the organization of cells.

            4. Theory of planetary motion

            Robert Hooke studied for years the theory of planetary motion based on a problem of mechanics as well studied the law of universal gravitation.

            His work in this area was the one that sparked his rivalry with Newton because the latter is the one who managed to publish the mathematical proof necessary to prove it.

            On the other hand, there are sources which reveal that Hooke he studied the elliptical motion of the Earth around the Sun..

            5. Invention

            Hooke was also a prolific inventor. Among his inventions are the instruments he designed to record changes in weather conditions: an alcohol thermometer, a quadrant barometer, an improved stopwatch, an anemometer, a hygrometric clock and a clock that automatically records the readings of meteorological instruments.

            Confrontation with Isaac Newton

            Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton had a long ego battle to be the brightest scientific mind of their time, being a very even rivalry while Hooke lived; nevertheless, after its death Newton continued with its scientific work with strong advances, reason why it ended up obtaining a greater recognition that Hooke.

            The rivalry between the two arose as a result of a publication by Newton in 1687 entitled “Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica” (Mathematical principles of natural philosophy), in which he spoke of the law of universal gravitation, as he had made research into this idea for Hooke’s contributions in the 1670s was key to its development. However, it was Newton who managed to create the rigorous mathematical proof to prove it.

            The point is, years ago Hooke and Newton had a long correspondence in which they talked about all kinds of topics. Then, After Newton published his theory of the law of gravity, Hooke got angry because he said he was the one who gave Newton the idea. through the letters he wrote to her; while Newton denied that it was Hooke who gave him the idea. All Newton admitted was that Hooke, through letters, sparked his interest in astronomy.

            They also had a rather similar dispute based on Newton’s “corpuscular theory”, which stated that light was made up of very small particles moving in a straight line.

            Leaving aside the conflicts that Robert Hooke had with Isaac Newton, there is no doubt that he was a great scientist with a brilliant mind, being a very representative figure of experimental science, being considered one of the fathers of microscopy, physics and scientific dissemination, so that its figure is remembered to this day.

            Bibliographical references

            • Barcat, JA (2003). Robert Hooke (1635-1703). MEDICINE (Buenos Aires), 63, pp. 753-756.
            • BBC World (August 19, 2017). Why Robert Hooke, “the English Leonardo da Vinci”, is not well known, and what he did to make Isaac Newton hate him so much. Retrieved from
            • Bennett, J., Cooper, M., Hunter, Michael & Jardine, L. (2003). Leonard of London: The Life and Work of Robert Hooke. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
            • Fernández, T. and Tamaro, E. (December 5, 2021). Robert hooke. Biographies and Lives: The Online Biographical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
            • Sanchez, SA (sf). Robert Hooke: biography and summary of his contributions to science. MetgePlus. Retrieved from
            • Shapin, S. (1989). Robert Hooke: New studies. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

            Leave a Comment