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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/797

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THE ENGLISH PRECURSORS OF NEWTON.

THE ENGLISH PRECURSORS OF NEWTON.
II.

ROBERT HOOKE was born at Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, July 18, 1635. Like Newton, he was a sickly child, and, like Newton too, his early years were distinguished and diverted by his singular mechanical ingenuity. He has left it on record that, having seen an old brass clock taken to pieces, he succeeded in constructing, in imitation of it, a wooden one that would, after a fashion, go; and about the same period he rigged out a miniature ship with ropes, pulleys, and masts, besides a contrivance to make it fire off some small guns while sailing across an adjacent haven; with what childish applause and self-gratulation, we are left to imagine. Nor did his sole gifts lie in this direction. His literary aptitude was beyond the common, and he showed a marked taste for music and painting. His education was as various as his talents. His father, who was minister of the parish, destined him for his own profession; but his infirm health precluded serious study, and it was consequently proposed to bind him apprentice to a watchmaker, or some similarly skilled artisan. After his father's death in 1648, his artistic tendencies so far got the upper hand, that we hear of him in the workshop of Sir Peter Lely, where, however, his occupation seems to have been nothing more ├Žsthetic than color-grinding. Either this preliminary stage of art disgusted him, or (as his biographers prefer to state) the smell of oil-paint aggravated his constitutional headaches, and he was transferred to the care of Dr. Busby, the celebrated master of Westminster School, who kept him gratuitously in his own house for several years. Here his education, properly speaking, may be said to have begun. He not only acquired a competent knowledge of Latin and Greek, with a tincture of Hebrew and other Oriental languages, but is said to have astonished his teachers by mastering the first six books of Euclid in as many days, and by playing, without instruction, twenty lessons on the organ. In 1653 he entered Christ Church, Oxford, as servitor to a Mr. Goodman; and ten years later received, on the nomination of Lord Clarendon, then Chancellor of the University, the degree of Master of Arts, which his poverty had perhaps prevented him from taking in the ordinary course. In 1654 the Hon. Robert Boyle, having finished his travels in Italy and his studies at Leyden, came to reside at Oxford. This amiable and ingenious gentleman has been quaintly panegyrized by an Irish humorist as "the father of chemistry and brother of the Earl of Cork." Although the clauses of this eulogy command different degrees of assent, and claim different kinds of esteem, they may be taken together as roughly summarizing the merits of its subject in the popular apprehension of that time. He was infected to an extraordinary extent with