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The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London Paperback – 6 Sep 2004


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The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London + Isaac Newton + The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (6 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007151756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007151752
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Jardine…has made important archival discoveries…her prose sparkles.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Nobody can explain factual history more clearly than Jardine.’ The Times

‘Jardine sets out to penetrate the obscurity and show us the man…a fascinating, impeccably researched account.’ Jenny Uglow, Guardian

‘Lisa Jardine is a new star on England’s literary and historical scene. She has a gift, which so few historians possess, of making the past seem relevant to our own times.’ Paul Johnson

‘Not nearly as well known today as his close friend Wren of his bitter enemy Newton, Hooke did as much as either of them to define the intellectual character of his age.’ Sunday Times

Telegraph

'[Lisa Jardine's] highly readable account reveals a proud, impatient, brilliant man.'

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. Sindelar on 13 Jun. 2006
Having admired for a long time some of the theorems of Robert Hooke, and also being amazed of his diversity, I looked forward to reading this book. But I was astonished how an exciting thinker could actually be put back in the cupboard he should have leaft a long time ago! The sometimes tedious descriptions of all correspondences and repetitions of some facts, and the lack of synthetizing the ideas and discoveries of this man, that maybe stand as the sole witnesses of his accomplishments, is somewhat strange. Also, the negligence of defining the time and the environment he lived in, and foremost the probably disadvantage of not being born noble, has not been elucidated far enough. Was he the sole man in the scientific life of the 17th century England not to be recognized for his scientific work? The definition of "the winner takes it all" is also hastily put together, and that is maybe one of the feelings you get from this book, that the writer has not unveiled the incredible stringency and skills, and maybe visions, of all these men deducing facts about the laws of nature from observations and with instruments that actually were far from perfect. That's sad..as we've been left with immense treasures from which it should be more easy to derive insights about these men and their time.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. K. Papas on 31 Jan. 2006
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The word polymath was made for Robert Hooke. This man was prodigious and it is time he was given the accolades that he didn't receive during a lifetime overshadowed by the genius of Isaac Newton. Not only did he prepare weekly experiments for The Royal Society over a period of years but he also found time to make scientific discoveries (Hooke's Law of Elasticity), to rebuild most of the London areas devastated by the Great Fire and make the first serious microscopic observations. He was a superb engineer, architect, designer and artist who has left an indelible imprint on science. You may also like to try "The Man Who Knew Too Much" by Stephen Inwood.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Normand Hamel on 20 April 2013
Robert Hook is a fascinating subject to study, but unfortunately Lisa Jardine wrote his biography in a rather laborious style. Hooke's life is recollected here in excruciating details and often through original texts of various lengths written in Early Modern English. It certainly has its own charm, but after a while I found this more annoying than useful. I would have preferred to hear the author's own voice rather than someone else's. Instead Jardine elected to let contemporary texts speak in her place. For me this is academic literature at its worst.

Hook is an important figure in the history of science but he has always been neglected and is almost forgotten today. This has a lot to do with the fact that he lived all his life in the shadow of giants like Isaac Newton. But more than three hundred years later it has become increasingly obvious for historians that Hook has made a significant contribution to the early development of modern science. That being said, potential readers need to know that this book is not meant to be a scientific biography. Yet I believe that more attention should have at least been given to the conflict between Hook and Newton. Anyhow, if you are more interested in Hook's scientific accomplishments you will be better rewarded if you read other efforts that are dedicated to this important aspect of his life, like for example "The Man Who Knew Too Much" by Stephen Inwood which appeared around the same time. In Jardine's narrative all areas of Hook's life are covered more or less equally, with no emphasis on any particular subject. This includes a long chapter on the role played by Hook in the large scale reconstruction of the city after the Great Fire of London. Overall it remains reasonably well balanced book.
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