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Date updated: 1/21/2020

Robert Hooke’s major contribution to 17th century scientific research and London architecture is clearly revealed in his diary. Kept as a memorandum book to remind him of the many places he had been and people he had met each day, along with his pithy thoughts and observations about scientific research and the world around him, the diary offers an unparalleled glimpse into the exciting and vibrant world of restoration scientific discovery and the rebuilding of London from the ashes of the Great Fire.

Hooke did not intend his diary to be read by anyone else, so he could be candid in his observations about himself and his contemporaries. The diary shows a man striving to be open and honest with himself. He found his body and habits to be worthy of investigation and research, so he noted his symptoms and the experimental, sometimes dangerous, medicines he self-administered.

Famed for his irascibility and scientific rows, the evidence of the diary suggests he was often both gregarious (with many evenings in taverns and coffee houses recorded) and collaborative - working closely and amiably with many colleagues, especially Sir Christopher Wren. At other times he confided in the diary his bitter feelings towards scientists whom he believed had stolen his ideas and inventions or deliberately under represented his achievements and contribution. Entries in the diary have allowed historians to cast light on these painful rows and also to investigate the diverse lines of enquiry he was pursuing in many different fields of knowledge.

LMA holds Hooke’s diary, 1672-1683 (reference CLC/495/MS01758) which can be consulted with advance notice and at LMA’s discretion - please email our enquiry team to make an enquiry.

The diary has been inscribed onto the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.