Robert Hooke was born on July 18 1635 and died on March 7 1703. He was the son of the Reverend John Hooke of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, and an very gifted child, he was sent after his father's death in 1648 to apprentice with the painter Lely in London, and when the oil paints afflicted his weak constitution, moved to Westminster School, where he lived, and probably worked, in the household of the headmaster Busby. In 1653 he continued to Oxford, again paying his way as a chorist and as a servitor, and in 1662 he obtained his MA degree.
In Royalist Oxford, pressured under Puritan rule, Hooke was fortunate to secure the sponsorship and guidance of John Wilkins, the warden of Wadham College. Wilkins had gathered around him a group of students who were mostly superior to Hooke in age and status. Acquiring their friendship, trust and appreciation turned out to be extremely important to Hooke's future.
Among these were the astronomer Seth Ward, the mathematician Lawrence Rooke, the inventor William Petty, the natural philosopher William Neile and the chemist Thomas Willis. Two of these acquaintances left a particular mark on Hooke's life and his subsequent epistemic interests: that of the mathematician turned architect Christoper Wren, who became a lifelong friend, associate and object of admiration, and that of the greatest sponsor of Restoration science, Robert Boyle. In 1658 Willis, who employed Hooke as an assistant in his chemical experiments, recommended him to Boyle to attend to his laboratory on High Street, near University College in London, and Hooke's scientific career was practically inaugurated.
Boyle employed Hooke for about four years and remained his patron until the end of his life. In 1660 another group which Wilkins and Boyle were sponsoring, and which was meeting regularly...