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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2020

5 - Earth’s Physical Interior Revealed


For many centuries, the search for concordances with ancient texts dominated the timeline of natural history, and there was no connection with geology. This scenario did not appeal to Robert Hooke (1635–1703) who, in 1662 at the age of 27, was appointed the curator of experiments at the Royal Society. He became a great polymath, Renaissance man and indeed a jack of all trades: architecture, astronomy, biology, mechanics, optics and geology came within his remit. His numerous inventions included the iris diaphragm, the universal joint and the compound microscope. He accumulated a huge personal fortune (£8000 in gold and cash, equivalent to a few million pounds today) when he and his friend Christopher Wren worked intensively in 1666–1680 as the principal architects rebuilding London after the Great Fire. Hooke’s career as curator at the Royal Society established his reputation as the first natural philosopher to focus on experiments made with precision instruments. For him, Nature was a great machine or engine in motion, the secrets of which could be uncovered with ingenious devices.

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