Crisis and Consolidation: 1672–1687

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


As the Royal Society embarked on its second decade, it went through a deep existential crisis as initial enthusiasms began to fade and two of its original and most influential members, Robert Moray and John Wilkins, died.1) More than half the members were in arrears and meetings had become lifeless, often because Hooke was occupied with his outside duties as surveyor and architect.2) Two other influential members, William Petty and Seth Ward, returning after having been out of town for long periods, were shocked by the state of the Society. Specifically the issue was “... the want of good experimental entertainment at their meetings, and from the neglect of the members in paying their weekly contribution...” Vice-President Petty hoped “to put new vigour into the meetings of the Society,”3) proposing that fellows should be charged with bringing in experiments every week and that legal proceedings might be initiated against fellows in arrears. Soon the active members embarked on a plan of rejuvenation, centered around getting more members involved and in making subscriptions legally binding.4)


Royal Society Steam Engine Initial Enthusiasm Honest Broker Influential Member 
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  1. 11).
    Birch , 3, 514.Google Scholar
  2. 14).
    Most of the secular rebuilding was done between 1668 and 1676, while the churches were mostly rebuilt after 1674. Construction was largely finished by 1690, except for steeples. Most of Hooke’s own architecture and supervision of his own buildings, took place in the 1670s: the College of Physicians, c1671–79; Bedlam Hospital, 1674–76; the Monument, 1673–76. He spent considerable time on other projects, such as Bridewell Hospital (1671–74), Montague House, Ragley. Hall, Willen church, and Aske’s Almhouses, Hoxton (1689–93]. See, for example, Espinasse (1956), Chap. 5, Louw (2006), and Batten (1936–7). Greenwich Observatory is another important building project in which Hooke was involved, and though the extent of his role in the design and construction of the latter is not entirely clear, we do know that he was deeply involved in it. For example, on 28 July 1675 he wrote in his Diary: “To Greenwich. Set out Observatory.” In addition to references to laying out Greenwich which can be found in the Diary, see F. Willmoth (1991).Google Scholar
  3. 15).
    Though see Marie Boas Hall, Henry Oldenburg (M.B. Hall, 2002), for the latter’s various schemes for making a living.Google Scholar
  4. 17).
    “That Mr. Hooke be desired for the future to keep the correspondence of the Society; and that the same shall be continued by the help of a small Journal of some particulars read in the Society ... And Mr. Hooke was desired to draw up a specimen of the said Journal propounded by him against the next meeting of the Council.” Birch , 3, pp. 450–1.Google Scholar
  5. 19).
    Molyneux to Halley, 8 April 1686. The letter was read to the Sociéty at the 21 April meeting. Birch 3, 479–9.Google Scholar
  6. 20).
    Feingold (2001), p. 89.Google Scholar
  7. 24).
    “Without any apparent cause,” according to Halley. Halley to Molyneux (suppl. to letter-book, iv, p. 329).Google Scholar
  8. 25).
    For elaboration, see Feingold (2001).Google Scholar
  9. 26).
    Birch , 3, 505.Google Scholar

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© Birkhäuser Verlag AG 2009

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