Most of us attach little or no importance to the name Robert Hooke when used in conjunction with Sir Isaac Newton. The reason is quite simple; it is a name that invites controversy. These two gentlemen, besides the fact that both were equally brilliant, had their differences.
Isaac Newton is known for his works leading to Newtonian mechanics, universal gravitation, calculus and optics. His fields of study involved mathematics, physics, astronomy, natural philosophy, alchemy and theology. As a personality, Newton was prone to depression and insecurity, which led to his several disputes with fellow scientists.
Hooke is mostly known for his Law of Elasticity. He coined the term “cell” and thus became the “father of microscopy”. He was at one time the curator of experiments of the Royal Society. Hooke was regarded as one of the most brilliant scientists of his time. He was a gregarious and passionate man who interacted with many scientists of his time.
It was Hooke who first deducted that gravity follows an inverse square law, thus paving the way to finally explain the motion of planets. This deduction made by Hooke was developed by Newton.
Hooke was a proud, irascible and energetic personality. Hooke had a thirst for knowledge of all kinds; architecture, biology, chemistry, astronomy and geology. He had a singularly brilliant mind and is responsible for much of the credit received by Newton for his findings.
After his death, Newton ascended to the post of President of the Royal Society. It was during this time that Newton did much to obscure the findings of Robert Hooke. There is also much controversy about the mysterious disappearance of a portrait of Robert Hooke from the President’s office of the Royal Society. Some believe that Newton destroyed the portrait himself.
Hooke was not the only one whose deductions led Newton to come up with his findings. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Christiaan Huygens and Francesco Maria Grimaldi were also some names that helped Newton with his deductions.
One can only wonder if Newton’s fame would have diminished if Robert Hooke had been able to claim credit for his work that led Newton to his conclusions.
When closely observing Newton’s work, one finds that he may have never arrived at the gravitational law or the three laws of motion or the theory of light if it weren’t for the names mentioned above. One can truly say that science and its understanding is best done by more than one person.