© 2009

The First Professional Scientist

Robert Hooke and the Royal Society of London


  • Focuses on Hooke’s role as simultaneously an employee of the Society and its intellectual center for 30 years

  • First book which incorporates the insights gained from the newly discovered "Hooke Folio" of 2006

  • Demonstrates how Hooke provided Newton with the key to understanding planetary orbital motion, an insight which led Newton to his great work, the Principia


Part of the Science Networks. Historical Studies book series (SNHS, volume 39)

About this book


A contemporary of Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton, and close friend of all but Newton, Robert Hooke (1635-1703), one of the founders of the early scientific revolution, faded into almost complete obscurity after his death and remained there for nearly three centuries. The result has been that his role in the scientific revolution has been almost totally ignored. He was best known as the first professional scientist worthy of the name, working for the young Royal Society of London as its curator of experiments for four decades. He became the Society’s intellectual center, and for a while its Secretary, roles which led to his famous confrontation with Newton.

Hooke was an amazingly diverse scientist, interested in pneumatics, magnetism, astronomy, mechanics, horology, optics, microscopy, gravity, and changes in the earth. His Micrographia, published in 1665, is one of the classics of the literature of early modern science. In addition he has a more practical career in surveying, construction, and architecture, and was second in importance only to Christopher Wren in the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Many of the so-called "Wren churches" are Hooke designs. A unique aspect of this book is the emphasis on the way Hooke provided Newton with the key to understanding planetary dynamics, paving the way for the discoveries that made Newton one of the greatest scientists of all time.


History of Science Hooke, Robert Isaac Newton Micrographia Robert Boyle Robert Hooke Royal Society of London Scientific Revolution microscopy

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. PhysicsTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The First Professional Scientist
  • Book Subtitle Robert Hooke and the Royal Society of London
  • Authors Robert D. Purrington
  • Series Title Science Networks. Historical Studies
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Birkhäuser Basel 2009
  • Publisher Name Birkhäuser Basel
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-0346-0036-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-0346-0037-8
  • Series ISSN 1421-6329
  • Series E-ISSN 2296-6080
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIX, 283
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the reviews:

“Each chapter is abundantly annotated. These annotations do more than just give a source: they are often quite descriptive in themselves. … This book describes the life of Hooke as well as his scientific contributions. Reading this book will enable one to see Hooke as the eclectic gentleman that he was. Anyone interested in Hooke or the London scientific community of the 17th century will certainly enjoy perusing it.” (Herbert E. Kasube, The Mathematical Association of America, August, 2010)