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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about our most under-rated scientist
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...
Published on 31 Jan. 2006 by Mr. K. Papas

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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed reader
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...
Published on 13 Jun. 2006 by R. Sindelar


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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed reader, 13 Jun. 2006
By 
R. Sindelar "ricksets" (Atlantis) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
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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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about our most under-rated scientist, 31 Jan. 2006
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Mr. K. Papas "kleopapas" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the Shadow of Giants, 20 April 2013
By 
Normand Hamel "Normand Hamel" (Brownsburg-Chatham, Québec) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
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. For sure one that the late Jacob Bronowski would have loved to preface. He would certainly be proud of his daughter's accomplishment.

Jardine reveals to us in the preface that her book "aspires to tell a different story from the customary version of the life and brilliant career of Robert Hook which records him as the vain, bad-tempered, quarrelsome adversary of Sir Isaac Newton." The end result of this favourable prejudice is that we are presented here with a very obedient and devoted Hook. Therefore his legendary bad dispositions are not, in my opinion, given proper attention. It's like if Jardine had somehow overcompensated for the tendency of previous biographers to portray him as an inamicable fellow. Jardine was only trying to express her own narrative voice, but in the end it is a voice that sounds a bit false. That is not because she lacks intellectual honesty but is rather the consequence of her conscious decision to offer her own perception of what she believes is a more balanced portraying of Hook.

There is another area where Jardine may have lost her objectivity. This becomes evident in her obstinate quest to find a picture of Hook so that we could have a better idea of what he looked like. She writes "so deep was Newton's hatred of Hook, we are told, that he destroyed the portrait of him (possibly two portraits) known to have hung at the Royal Society." She had been on the lookout for a portrait that would have survived the purported desecration when she found one that appeared to her as an authentic painting representing Robert Hook. This is the portrait we find on the cover of her book in various editions. She adds defiantly "I propose to claim this portrait as Robert Hooke's, until it is proved to me that this is in fact recognizably a portrait of somebody else." Well, that is exactly what happened only a few years after she made this daring claim. According to Wikipedia the painting does not represent Robert Hook, nor John Ray (like it was originally believed), but is in reality a portrait of Jan Baptista van Helmont as it has recently been demonstrated. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"In 2003, the historian Lisa Jardine claimed a recently discovered portrait represented Robert Hooke. However, Jardine's hypothesis was disproved by William Jensen of the University of Cincinnati and by the German researcher Andreas Pechtl of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. The portrait in fact depicts Jan Baptista van Helmont."

Therefore it now appears that Jardine had not conducted sufficient research to properly substantiate such a bold claim. And it could even be said that in the process she made a fool of herself. Nevertheless that does not subtract anything from the book itself, which remains a valuable contribution to the history of science. And also, I am afraid, a testimony of her impudence.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Lisa, 14 Dec. 2004
This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
An excellent insight into the life of Robert Hooke. I have read a couple of biographies on Issac Newton, but only ever seen passing references to Hooke and his claims against Newton. Now I understand better the man, his character and his strengths and weaknesses. This book takes the romance out of the story of the Royal Society and shows that its founders were human after all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 27 April 2015
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This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
Excellent!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you wanted to know about Robert Hooke, 2 Aug. 2009
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Geoffrey Lake "Geoff Lake" (Wales UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
Very well written and full of background information about the exciting times Hooke lived in, as well as a great insight into the man himself. Neal Stephenson's "System of the World" series brought me to find out about this fascinating time in Western history and Lisa Jardine's scholarly but enjoyable book adds a further dimension
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 21 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London (Paperback)
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The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London
The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London by Lisa Jardine (Paperback - 6 Sept. 2004)
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