Professor Jardine does it again. She had a tougher task than with her equally scholarly biography of Wren (On a Grander Scale) in that her protagonist is both less well known and less – well, likeable – than Wren. However, she succeeds in drawing a convincing picture of Hooke as an overworked, irascible, but thoroughly competent man, who to a large extent was the powerhouse behind so many of the scientific, technical and architectural achievements of the Restoration era.
Hooke provides a cautionary tale for workaholics and multitaskers everywhere; his masters at the Royal Society were staggeringly intolerant of his work for the Corporation of London. Yet if one looks at what was going on in the 1660s and 70s – whether the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, or the unparalleled spirit of scientific enquiry within the Royal Society – and if one removes Hooke from the equation, it is difficult to see how any of it would have been achieved.