[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Hooke manuscript is returned home
By Rebecca Morelle
BBC News science reporter

The manuscript will be preserved and analysed

The long-lost manuscript belonging to pioneering scientist Robert Hooke has returned to the Royal Society.

The hand-written notes are thought to contain a "treasure trove" of information about the early endeavours of the UK's academy of science.

A digitised version of the notes will eventually be available on the web.

The document, which had lain hidden in a house in Hampshire, was rescued from a public auction after a fundraising effort pulled in the 940,000 needed.

The "white knights" have been revealed as the Wellcome Trust, which gave 469,000, and 150 donors who came forward after the Royal Society appealed to its fellows and the general public.

The manuscript will now be rebound, transcribed and carefully analysed; and infrared scanning will be used to reveal some notes that have become illegible over time.

A polymath

Robert Hooke, who died in 1703, was a polymath whose many contributions included coining the term "cell", devising a law of elasticity, creating spring regulators for time pieces; and designing several major buildings, such as the Monument to the Fire of London.

In 1662, Hooke became curator of experiments at the Royal Society, and he was later elected a fellow in 1664.

Lisa Jardine (Royal Society)
The fragile pages of the manuscript contain Hooke's notes of Royal Society meetings that took place in the 17th Century.

They are scattered with sketches and marginal observations, which the society hope will give insight into the man whose work crossed so many fields.

Professor Lisa Jardine, a historian from Queen Mary, University of London, and biographer of Robert Hooke, was the first person to alert the Royal Society to the existence of the document. She will be working with the society to analyse the notes.

"These are the records of what happened at the Royal Society between late 1677 and late 1682. There could well be a Newton experiment in there that nobody knows about," she said.

"Hooke was a colourful, controversial character. These minutes are more likely to tell us about his interactions with other people. For a biographer like me, they will give us a much fuller picture.

"I think, in terms of modern science, they will tell us about the origins of laboratory science, research team interaction, and how controversy and competition fuelled discovery. They will reveal the mechanics, the machinery of scientific discovery."

Scientific disputes

Hooke was involved in many disputes with scientists who he accused of plagiarising his ideas - the most famous being his feud with Isaac Newton, who he accused of stealing his ideas about gravity.

Professor Jardine said the manuscript might shed light on some of these disagreements.

"There are four pages which may tell us whether Hooke really had beaten Christian Huygens to a balanced spring watch for measuring longitude."

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, added: "The manuscript is significant to both scientists and non-scientists, and covers pioneering experiments relating to astronomy, gravity and microscopy.

"The descriptions of his experiments are the closest one could get to an original experiment without actually being there. We hope that scientists and non-scientists alike will soon be able to appreciate how exciting this discovery is."

The papers will also go on display to the general public at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition in July.

Auction deal saves 1m manuscript
28 Mar 06 |  Hampshire
Appeal to buy '1m' Hooke notes
10 Feb 06 |  Education
'Lost' manuscript valued at 1m
09 Feb 06 |  Hampshire

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific