The Last Remain: Hooke After the Principa, 1687–1703

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


During the last 15 years of his life Hooke struggled under Newton’s long shadow and was facing rapidly declining health, and yet was sill vigorous enough to continue as a major intellectual force in the Society. But despite all the recent writing on Hooke, one could be excused for thinking that he had died in 1684, or perhaps 1687, for very little has been written on those last fifteen or so years. There are reasons for this, of course, not the least of which was the publication of the Principia in 1687, a watershed that has diverted attention from Hooke’s last years, indeed from Hooke in any form. That is far from the whole story, and yet, after that monumental work it often seems there is little room for Hooke, or for that matter, anyone else.


Royal Society Planetary Motion Society Meeting Double Refraction Lunar Theory 
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  1. 3).
    Depending on how one counts, only three or six, in the 15 years following the Principia. See Keynes (1960), pp. 56–58.Google Scholar
  2. 5).
    Gunther (1935), p. 73.Google Scholar
  3. 6).
    These deserve much closer attention than they have heretofore been given. I thank Michael Hunter for urging me to comment on this vast and jumbled “treasure trove” of material which includes a number of unpublished lectures referred to elsewhere in this chapter. Some items are merely abstracts, transcriptions or translations of works Hooke was studying. Also included are letters, a few astronomical observations, even a Gresham lecture. Some of the earlier material may bear directly on the question of Hooke’s efforts to solve the problem of planetary motion. A list of these papers published in Keynes (1960) is not without errors. See also Hunter (1989), p. 333.Google Scholar
  4. 11).
    The passage in his Diary for 3 July reads, “... dispute about Newton, of Leibnitz fallere fallentens, Newton & Mr Hamden came in, I went out ...” (Gunther, X. p. 133).Google Scholar
  5. 13).
    Gunther , Vol. X, p. 163. What Hooke meant by that we cannot know. Had he managed to complete a proof he started in 1685, perhaps earlier, when it is known that he demonstrated elliptical orbits under an attractive central force proportional to the distance?Google Scholar
  6. 14).
    Gunther , Vol. X, p. 184.Google Scholar
  7. 17).
    Hooke did not publish anything really new after 1688. Recall, however (Chapter 6), that only four numbers were published from 1688 to 1692. In all, he only had 21 papers published in the organ of the Society, in nearly forty years (Keynes, 1960, pp. 56–7).Google Scholar
  8. 18).
    Diary , 27 November 1688. Gunther, vol. X, p. 76. The passages reads: “Hally here: of Sir J. Hoskins: Mr Henshaw of leaving the Society: of my ingaging for the Sec and Curator.” Hooke’s friend Richard Waller served as secretary from 1687 until 1709, along with Gale and Sloane.Google Scholar
  9. 19).
    Maddison (1969), p. 177.Google Scholar
  10. 21).
    Little (1975), p. 211, 22.Google Scholar
  11. 22).
    Aubrey to Wood, 22 January 1691; in Tylden-Wright (1991).Google Scholar
  12. 30).
    Gunther , X, pp. 260, 262.Google Scholar
  13. 33).
    Gunther , Vol. X, p. 128.Google Scholar
  14. 37).
    HF (2006) 623–634.Google Scholar
  15. 38).
    As Adams and Jardine (2006) have noted, “record-keeping was clearly not one of Hooke’s many and varied talents.Google Scholar
  16. 40).
    “The Life of Dr. Robert Hooke, in Waller, PW, p. xxvi. Gunther, vol. VI. pp. 63–4.Google Scholar
  17. 41).
  18. 43).
    Elizabeth stephens. The estate amounted to a total of S9,580. See Drake (1996), p. 57.Google Scholar
  19. 45).
    Inwood (2003), p. 409.Google Scholar

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