Tom O'Donoghue* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


Not many engineering journals open with a paper by a historian. This issue of Engineering and Computational Mechanics does just that, with a fascinating paper by historian of science Allan Chapman on the work of Robert Hooke (Chapman, 2011). With a foreword by Alistair Borthwick, the paper is an insightful and authoritative account of Hooke's work in the seventeenth century, when Hooke and others were at the forefront of the new philosophy of promoting knowledge of the natural and physical world through observation and experiment. Put another way, at this time Hooke and his peers were at the origin of (engineering) science itself. Chapman gives a wonderful account of Hooke's engagement with the ‘revolution in perception' afforded by the microscope, enabling Hooke to see mechanisms at work in nature that must have inspired his work in mechanics and mechanical invention. The paper provides an account of Hooke's work on the vacuum pump, barometer, weather clock and spring balance – all drawing their inspiration from his abiding concern with motion and elasticity – and of his civil engineering work with Wren following the Great Fire of London in 1666. Chapman does much more than merely catalogue some of Hooke's main inventions and achievements. He brings a history-of-science perspective, which captures the truly revolutionary nature of Hooke's work and conveys the vital connection between the fundamental, philosophical enquiry of the day and the associated scientific breakthroughs and inventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-186
Number of pages2
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Engineering and Computational Mechanics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


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