Sachiko Kusukawa is a Fellow in the History and Philosophy of Science at Trinity College, Cambridge. She works the history of scientific illustrations and has recently discovered Hooke’s drawings on fossils ('The fossil drawings by Robert Hooke and Richard Waller', Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 67, 2 (2013)).
My choice is: Felicity Henderson, ‘Unpublished material from the memorandum book of Robert Hooke, Guildhall Library MS 1758’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 61 (2007).
There are many ways in which journals can contribute to the advancement of scholarship. In humanities journals, this primarily takes the form of interpretive essays. Another kind of scholarship that journals can support from time to time, though perhaps less frequently as it depends on discoveries and documents of appropriate length, is the publication of primary historical sources. My favourite article in Notes and Records comes from this genre.
Hooke’s diary has been available in print through H. W. Robinson and W. Adams, The diary of Robert Hooke, MA. FRS, 1672-1680 (London, 1935) and R. T. Gunther, Early science in Oxford, vol. 10: The life and work of Robert Hooke, (Oxford, 1935), though the rudimentary index and limited identification of references to people, publications and events have hampered the full use of this important source. Felicity Henderson provides a transcription of the pages missing from the Robinson-Adams edition, and most importantly, with a scholarly apparatus that identifies the people, publication and places that Hooke refers to, with a full index and short biographies of people identified. This kind of work might look ‘easy’ – one might think all one has to do is to copy out what’s been written down and then add a few footnotes; this is absolutely not the case. Hooke’s handwriting is not very easy to read, especially since several of the entries were abbreviated, written over or crossed out. Supplying the footnotes – what enables us to understand what is going on in Hooke’s memorandum – requires serious detective work and familiarity with the topography of seventeenth-century London, its inhabitants and guilds, parliamentary history, publishers, printmakers, engravers and other craftsmen, not to mention the fellows and activities of the Royal Society. I think it is important that Notes and Records continues to support this kind of fundamental scholarship.
It is, as Henderson points out, more appropriate to see Hooke’s ‘diary’ as a ‘memorandum’, as it contained a daily running note of miscellaneous things he felt the need to record: from barometric readings for each day to notes of income and expenditure, titles of books lent, borrowed or given, and the auctions he attended. He also noted the churches, hospitals and private houses he surveyed in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, the on-going construction of which he supervised. Among these are important first-hand reports of contemporary scientific activities - the topics and experiments discussed at the weekly meetings of the Royal Society. Hooke’s memorandum is important, because it gives us a glimpse into a scientific life before the time when scientists went to work to a laboratory and made a living out of doing their work at a science-specific workplace.
The missing parts recovered in Henderson’s article do not disappoint in terms of the tantalizing tid-bits of information Hooke’s memorandum is also known for. For example, the range of diuretics or emetics he took – syrup of roses, whey, rhubarb, limewater with juice of liquorice – and their effects; what he ate – cheese given by another FRS, Theodore Haak, ‘made me worse’; meat and orange ‘agreed well’; almonds ‘did me good’, and carrot pudding at Christopher Wren’s house made him ‘sick’. Hooke also had a go at interior decoration: ‘painted my window curtain’! These are punctuated by his regular visits to coffee houses where he heard news about the Anglo-Dutch war and discussed scientific theories and experiments with other fellows of the Royal Society. He also noted exchanges with printers and sellers of scientific publications, collaborations with the lens-grinder Christopher Cox, his experiments presented at the meetings of the Royal Society as well as the ballot results of the election of the Society’s officers. In several cases Hooke’s is the only record from which we now know who was present at those meetings and how many votes were cast. While many of the entries are brief and terse to the point that some of the references are difficult to reconstruct, the memorandum also contains some more eloquent moments – for June the 2nd, 1671, he wrote: ‘sky cleer blew but some high thin white cloudes moving from ye North at [sun] set. there appeard a great redness which by & by vanish but at 8:40. the under sides of some Lower cloudes were intensly blood read. which was vanisht in 5 or 6 minutes.’ The daily weather observation is an indication of Hooke’s constant interest in, and scrutiny of the natural world around him. Hooke’s memorandum endlessly fascinates – every time I read it, I find something new and interesting in it.
The article is free to view: