Out of the Shadow of A Giant

Out of the Shadow of A Giant

Hooke, Halley and the Birth of British Science

Book - 2017
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What if Isaac Newton had never lived? Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley, whose place in history has been overshadowed by the giant figure of Newton, were pioneering scientists within their own right, and instrumental in establishing the Royal Society.

Publisher: London :, William Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,, 2017
Description: xvi, 302 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 25 cm
ISBN: 9780008220594
Branch Call Number: 509.2241 Gri
Additional Contributors: Gribbin, Mary.


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Oct 04, 2017

This is an engaging and very readable account of the scientific contributions
and the significance of Robert Hooke and Edmund Halley (of the comet fame).
These two 16th century scholars were important figures in early years of the
Royal Society, which formalised the Scientific Revolution in England. Although
their names are well known, the importance of their contributions is not. John
and Mary Gribbin set out to change that in this book.

The giant in who's shadow the Gribbins remove them from is, of course, Isaac Newton. Robert Hooke in particular has suffered from his eclipse as it seems that he was maliciously written out of history by Newton, even though Hooke was the giant upon whose shoulders Newton stood. The Gribbins attempt to correct that elision and show that much of Newton's work, including gravity, had previously been done or anticipated by Hooke. Hooke was every bit Newton's scientific equal other than in mathematics, where Newton is rightly regarded as a genius.

Halley, on the other hand, was a good friend of Newton's and his most important contribution to science was persuading and cajoling Newton to write his magnum opus, The Principia, one of the most important scientific publications ever. Other than that, Halley's contributions were mainly astronomical: important yes, but not on the same level as those of Hooke and Newton. It seems a bit of a stretch to include Halley as being overshadowed by Newton.

Hooke was also Christopher Wren's partner in the rebuilding of London after the
Great Fire. It was Hooke who established the shape of the famous dome of St. Paul's cathedral. He seems to have been a glutton for work!

I can heartily recommend "Out Of The Shadow Of A Giant" to anyone who wants to know more about the scientific revolution in England during the late 16th and early 17th centuries or the lives of the principles involved. It is much more an attempt at re-establishing the proper place in scientific history of Robert Hooke than anything approaching a hagiography of Isaac Newton.

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