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Or, Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries Thereupon
By Robert Hooke
The original, squashed down to read in about 10 minutes
The industrious Hooke was architect, chief surveyor of London and curator of experiments at the Royal Society. He investigated gasses, the law of elasticity is named after him, and he seems to have discovered how gravity acts long before Newton. 'Micrographia' was an astonishing success, bringing to the public (see Pepys, Jan 20th 1665), as well as the scientific community, the tiny world in front of us, and observing cells for the first time.
TO THE KING.
It is the great prerogative of Mankind above other Creatures, that we are not only able to behold the works of Nature, but we have also the power of considering, comparing, altering, assisting, and improving them to various uses. Yet, not having a full sensation of an Object, we must be very lame and imperfect in our conceptions about it, hence, we often take the shadow of things for the substance.
These being the dangers of humane Reason, we may supply their infirmities with Instruments, with prodigious benefit to useful knowledge. By the means of Telescopes, there is nothing so far distant but may be represented to our view; and by the help of Microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry. What kind of mechanical way, and physical invention may yet be found out? The way of flying in the Air seems unpracticable, by reason of the want of strength in humane muscles; if that could be suppli'd, it were, I think, easie to make twenty contrivances to perform the office of Wings: What Attempts I have made for the supplying that Defect, and my successes therein, which is not inconsiderable, I shall in another place relate.
The Microscope, which for the most part I made use of, was shap'd much like that in the Figure shown, the Tube being for the most part not above six or seven inches long.
I have made a Microscope with one piece of Glass, both whose surfaces were plains. I have made others of Waters, Gums, Resins, Salts, Arsenick, Oyls, and with divers other watery and oyly Liquors.
What the things I observ'd, the following descriptions will manifest; in brief, they were either exceeding small Bodies, some of which the Reader will find in the following Notes, and such, as I presume, (many of them at least) will be new, and perhaps not less strange
Of the Point of a sharp small Needle.
The Point of a Needle is commonly reckon'd sharp. But if view'd with a very good Microscope, we may find that the top of a Needle appears a broad, blunt, and very irregular end; not resembling a Cone, as is imagin'd, but onely a piece of a tapering body, with a great part of the top remov'd, or deficient. The Points of Pins are yet more blunt
Of the Edge of a Razor.
A Razor doth appear to be a Body of a very neat and curious aspect, till more closely viewed by the Microscope, and there we may observe its very Edge to be of all kind of shapes, except what it should be. For examining that of a very sharp one, I could not find that any part of it had any thing of sharpness in it; but it appeared a rough surface.
Of fine Lawn, or Linnen Cloth.
This is another product of Art, A piece of the finest Lawn I was able to get, so curious that the threads were scarce discernable by the naked eye, and yet through an ordinary Microscope you may perceive what a goodly piece of coarse Matting it is; what proportionable cords each of its threads are, being not unlike, both in shape and size, the bigger and coarser kind of single Rope-yarn, wherewith they usually make Cables.
Of several kindes of frozen Figures.
I have very often in a Morning, when there has been a great hoar-frost, with an indifferently magnifying Microscope, observ'd the small Stiriæ, or Crystalline beard, which then usually covers the face of most bodies that lie open to the cold air, and found them to be generally Hexangular prismatical bodies, much like the long Crystals of Salt-peter.
The parts of those curious branchings, or vortices, that usually in cold weather tarnish the surface of Glass, appear through the Microscope very rude and unshapen, as do most other kinds of frozen Figures, which to the naked eye seem exceeding neat and curious, such as the Figures of Snow, frozen Urine, Hail, several Figures frozen in common Water, &c.
Of the Schematisme or Texture of Cork, and of the Cells and Pores of some other such frothy Bodies.
I took a good clear piece of Cork, and with a Pen-knife sharpen'd as keen as a Razor, I cut a piece of it off, and thereby left the surface of it exceeding smooth, then examining it very diligently with a Microscope. I could exceeding plainly perceive it to be all perforated and porous, much like a Honey-comb. I no sooner discern'd these (which were indeed the first microscopical pores I ever saw, and perhaps, that were ever seen, for I had not met with any Writer or Person, that had made any mention of them before this) but me thought I had with the discovery of them, presently hinted to me the true and intelligible reason of all the Phænomena of Cork. I have with my Microscope, plainly enough discover'd these Cells.
Of a Plant growing in the blighted or yellow specks of Damask-rose-leaves, and some other kind of leaves.
I have for several years observ'd many of the leaves of the old shrubs of Damask Roses, all bespecked with yellow stains. Examining these with a Microscope, I was able plainly to distinguish, up and down the surface, several small yellow knobs, of a kind of yellowish red gummy substance, out of which I perceiv'd there sprung multitudes of little cases or black bodies like Seed-cods. I have often doubted whether they were the seed Cods of some little Plant, or some kind of small Buds, or the Eggs of some very small Insect, they appear'd of a dark brownish red, some almost quite black, and their stalks were of a very fine, which makes me to suppose them to be Vegetables, of a kind of Mildew or Blight.
Of the Eyes and Head of a Grey drone-Fly.
I took a large grey Drone-Fly, (this I made choice of because I found this Fly to have the biggest clusters of eyes in proportion to his head, of any small kind of Fly) Then examining it according to my usual manner, by varying the degrees of light, and altering its position to each kinde of light, I drew that representation of it which is delineated here, and found these things to be as plain and evident, as notable and pleasant.
Of a Flea.
The strength and beauty of this small creature, had it no other relation at all to man, would deserve a description. For its strength, the Microscope is able to make no greater discoveries of it then the naked eye, but onely the curious contrivance of its leggs and joints, for the exerting that strength, is very plainly manifested, such as no other creature, I have yet observ'd. I could not perceive them tooth'd; but their jaws were shap'd very like the blades of a pair of round top'd Scizers, and were opened and shut just after the same manner; with these Instruments does this little busie Creature bite and pierce the skin.
Of a Louse.
This is a Creature so officious, that 'twill be known to every one at one time or other, so busie, and so impudent, that it will be intruding it self in every ones company, and so proud and aspiring withall, that it fears not to trample on the best, and affects nothing so much as a Crown. It feeds and lives very high, and that makes it so saucy, as to pull any one by the ears that comes in its way, and will never be quiet till it has drawn blood: it is troubled at nothing so much as at a man that scratches his head, as knowing that man is plotting and contriving some mischief against it.
Of multitudes of small Stars discoverable by the Telescope, and Of the Moon
'Ttis not unlikely, but that the meliorating of Telescopes will afford as great a variety of new Discoveries in the Heavens, as better Microscopes would among small terrestrial Bodies, and both would give us infinite cause, more and more to admire the omnipotence of the Creator.
In October 1664, just before the Moon was half inlightned, with a Glass of threescore foot long, I observed the Mountains of the Moon. I am not unapt to think, that the Vale may have Vegetables analogus to our Grass, Shrubs, and Trees; and most of these incompassing Hills may be covered with so thin a vegetable Coat, as we may observe the Hills with us to be, such as the short Sheep pasture which covers the Hills of Salisbury Plains.
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