What Are the Accomplishments of Robert Hooke?

Robert Hooke was one of the last great polymaths of the early scientific age. He was a virtuoso who made important contributions to nearly every field of study in which he was interested, from astronomy to zoology. Hooke invented the compound microscope with which he confirmed van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microbes, argued that fossils were of biological origin and devised an equation to describe elasticity that still bears his name.

Robert Hooke's accomplishments as an engineer were impressive. He invented the iris diaphragm, the universal joint and the respirator. He ground lenses and assembled his own microscopes for studying life on a small scale, incidentally coining the word "cell" for the basic structure of biological tissues, and he greatly improved clock design with the balance spring.

As a theoretician, Hooke is responsible for the modern understanding of how fossils are formed by the intrusion of "petrifying water." He also suggested what is now known as geological uplift as the mechanism whereby fossil sea life came to rest on mountaintops. Hooke developed the correct theory of combustion and, while still a student, assisted Robert Boyle in working out the relationship of gas pressure to volume.

Robert Hooke was also regarded as a great draughtsman and designer of experiments. He was a charter member of the Royal Society, professor of geometry and held the office of Chief Surveyor. Hooke also played a leading role in the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666.