Thursday, January 26, 2006

Flashes from the Past: "He was a sickly child..."

He was a sickly child educated at home for the first few years of his life. Though constitutionally weak, he was good with his hands, making clocks, model boats, and sundials, and imagining "thirty different ways of flying."

As a teenager, his first job was working as a artist's assistant, but he quit when the varnishes began to irritate his breathing. Back at school, his genius for ancient languages, mathematics, music, and invention were discovered by all.

As an adult, he was anything but a recluse. In fact, he irritated some conventional scientific introverts. He liked to talk, smoke, and hang out in coffeehouses, and he preferred to flit from various topics in his work. Who was this? This was England's Leonardo, Robert Hooke. A polymath, Hooke made discoveries in electricity, physics, and biology, did the artwork for Micrographia (see below), and helped rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666.

Robert Hooke

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