From Publishers Weekly
Forgotten though he may have been, this is the second biography of Hooke to appear this season (after Lisa Jardine's The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, Forecasts, Nov. 17, 2003). The next time you open a window, thank Robert Hooke, who invented the modern sash window. Or thank him when you're driving your car, for Hooke invented the universal joint, indispensable in transmissions. In this extensively researched biography, Inwood (A History of London), like Jardine, wants to rehabilitate Hooke's reputation after centuries of denigration due mainly to Hooke's celebrated disputes with Isaac Newton and other luminaries like Hevelius, Huygens and Leibniz, whom he accused of taking credit for his discoveries. In addition to his work as a scientist, Hooke played an important role alongside Christopher Wren in rebuilding London after the devastating fire of 1666; Inwood argues that history has credited to Wren many buildings that were actually designed by Hooke. Hooke's mind-boggling breadth of interests can be compared only with da Vinci's, and he was equally prescient: his argument with Newton over the nature of light (wave or particle?) was 200 years ahead of its time, and he anticipated Lyell and Darwin in his firm belief in the cataclysmic history of the earth's surface. This book complements Jardine's: Inwood provides substantially more insight into Hooke's career as a scientist and the better account of the quarrels with Newton, but Jardine paints a more vivid portrait of Hooke the man. Both biographies are recommended for readers interested in early modern science. 37 illus.
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Consigned to centuries of obscurity, the Renaissance scientist and architect Hooke has finally captured the limelight in two excellent new biographies. Like the recently published study by Lisa Jardine (The Curious Life of Robert Hooke
[BKL Ja 1 & 15 04]), Inwood's portrait illuminates the brilliance of a hunchbacked polymath whose rare talents left their seldom-acknowledged marks on a dozen disciplines. But while Jardine concludes that Hooke fell short of true genius because he spread his gifts too thin, Inwood interprets the diversity of Hooke's accomplishments as the very mark of genius. In encyclopedic detail, Inwood surveys Hooke's astounding range of feats: charting the heavens and mapping London's teeming streets; laying out sublime designs for churches and engraving the microscopic images of fleas; inventing modern watches and deciphering ancient fossils. In restoring luster to Hooke's reputation as an intellectual, Inwood also recovers his wholeness as a complex human being, prone to contentiousness and miserliness yet capable of selfless and lasting friendship. A balanced portrait certain to prevent its subject from sliding back into the mere footnotes of history. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved