Robert Hooke: Micrographia

London: 1665 
Sp Coll Hunterian M.3.1

The Micrographia is the most famous work written by Robert Hooke (1635–1703), a brilliant scientist who made outstanding contributions to a number of scientific fields. Hooke was the curator of experiments at the then newly founded Royal Society, and the results of his observations in using a compound microscope and telescope are recorded in this groundbreaking text. The work begins with an investigation of inorganic matter and goes on to examine vegetable and animal bodies; included are descriptions of minute features such as 'the edge of a razor', various silks, 'the fiery sparks struck from a flint or steel', snow, urine, the leaves of herbs, flies and fleas. As well as being the foundation for the study of microscopy, in this work Hooke proved to be ahead of his time in a variety of areas. Most famously, he used the word 'cell' for the first time in describing the structure of cork; he also explained the diffraction of light independently of Grimaldi's discoveries, and was the first to describe, for example, a bee's sting, the compound eye of a fly, and the structure of feathers.

The book is renowned for its magnificent plates, mostly drawn with the greatest attention to detail by Hooke himself. It was an immediate bestseller.

Microscopes and Instruments

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