Light waves, Lunar Geology, and Chemical Comets: Robert Hooke, the First "Laboratory Astronomer"

Light waves, Lunar Geology, and Chemical Comets: Robert Hooke, the first "Laboratory astronomer" 

Robert Hooke’s monumental ‘Micrographia’ (1665) and his published cometary researches a decade later laid the foundation for a wholly new approach to physical science. Experimentation with instruments lay at its heart.  Not only did Hooke propose a machine for figuring large-diameter object glasses (which might reveal creatures living on the moon), but his experiments also indicated that light moved in waves.  Then his lab experiments, including dropping bullets into hot alabaster and immersing metal balls into strong acid (and noticing the ensuing bubble streams) led him to both the impact and the volcanic models of lunar crater formation, and a chemical dissolution explanation for comets.  So was Hooke the first planetary scientist? 


About ALLAN CHapman

Allan Chapman is a historian of science at Oxford University with a special interest in the history of astronomy. He is the author of 13 books and over 130 journal articles, and has made several television programmes.  He has been awarded honorary doctorates for his work in the history of astronomy by the University of Central Lancashire (2004) and Salford University (2010), and in 2014 received an ‘Outstanding Alumnus’ award from Lancaster University.  In 2015 he was presented with the Jackson-Gwilt Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society – the first time it has been awarded to a historian.  His latest book is ‘Stargazers: Copernicus, Galileo, the Telescope, and the Church. The Astronomical Renaissance, 1500-1700’, published by Lion Hudson in October 2014