Robert Hooke. Micrographia. London, 1665.

Robert Hooke. Micrographia. London, 1665.

Robert Hooke(1635–1703), was curator of experiments for the Royal Society of London and a leading figure in the establishment of a strong role for empirical approaches to the understanding of nature. His most famous publication isMicrographia, sponsored by the Royal Society, and a masterpiece of seventeenth-century book production.

It was the first book printed in English on the microscope, and was illustrated by Hooke himself.  One of the more spectacular of the illustrations is of the lowly flea, engraved on a foldout page measuring nearly half a metre. Thomas Shadwell (c.1640–1692) created the character of Sir Nicholas Gimcrack in his play The Virtuoso as a parody of scientific practitioners of the day, and of Hooke in particular. After attending a performance on 2 June 1676, Hooke recorded in his diary, ‘Damned Dogs. Vindica me Deus. People almost pointed’.