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Micrographia by Robert Hooke (1665)

A facsimile edition of Robert Hooke’s most profound work, Micrographia includes minutely detailed descriptions, philosophical queries, and beautiful engraved illustrations. The book was authorized on November 23, 1664 by the Council of the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge.In the dedication “TO THE KING” the author pays homage to a monarch who, by power and right, ruled over all aspects of society – both individual and collective.¬†Hooke acknowledges that “philosophy and experimental learning have prospered under royal patronage,” yet places them in perspective with the “nobler matters: the improvement of manufactures and agriculture, the increase of commerce, and the advantage of navigation.”

Hooke's philosophy is clearly revealed in the opening words of the preface: "It is the great prerogative of mankind above other creatures, that we are not only able to behold the works of nature or barely to sustain our lives by them, but that we have also the power of considering, comparing altering, assisting, and improving them to various uses."

Hooke calls attention to the need of "rectifying the operation of the senses, the memory, and reason." He then explains how this can be accomplished; The senses can be expanded through the extension of sight by the use of his newly designed and improved microscope; The memory is improved with his minutely detailed engraved illustrations; And the power of reason is demonstrated by recording his observations and queries, thereby revealing scientific truths and facts.

Beginning with chapter 1, Hooke systematically examines common materials and compares the unaided view with the expanded view of the magnifying glass. He notes the imperfections of man-made objects, and contrasts them with the infinite perfection of natural objects.

Hooke applies his scientific method to the properties of matter, from solid to fluid. He deducts that fluidity is a property given to finely divided matter and that solubility is a property of like matter and density, i.e. oil and water. He concludes that fluidity is like fine sand vibrating on the head of a drum. A piece of cork will float to the top of the energized sand particles, while a piece of lead will move to the bottom.

Hooke never ceases to observe. Whenever his eyes were open, the world around him was a laboratory. Whatever was at hand, he observed its properties. If it was snowing, or there was frost on glass, he observed the flakes and crystals. In this book, Hooke questions form, origin, and the relationship of one observation to another as he examines, describes, and comments upon a broad variety of mineral, plant and animal materials.

Micrographia is a fascinating and rewarding account of a significant time in scientific history.

Price: $75.00

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