Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Short Sharp Science

Hooke springs to life in new portrait

Andy Coghlan, reporter
 (Image: Rita Greer/Institute of Physics)

This portrait of Robert Hooke is probably as close as we'll get to the appearance of the physicist whose law of elasticity bears his name. If the rumours are true, his arch rival, Isaac Newton, angrily burned all contemporary pictures of Robert Hooke on his death in 1703.
The portrait will be unveiled during a conference celebrating Hooke's achievements on 12 January at the Institute of Physics in London. Artist Rita Greer says she drafted the image using descriptions of Hooke by his contemporaries at the Royal Society, John Aubrey and Richard Waller. "It's like making a clock," says Greer. "You make the pieces and put them together to make the finished work."
Greer has produced several portraits of Hooke since she began depicting him following his tercentenary in 2003, including eight commissioned pieces. She says was disgusted that there were no remaining pictures of him and took steps to rectify it with works of her own. "I try and make him look the same in all of them," says Greer, who also fought successfully for Hooke to be memorialised in St Paul's cathedral in London and near the Monument, which Hooke and Christopher Wren designed to commemorate the Great Fire of London.
Although Hooke is well known for his disputes with Newton about who discovered the laws of gravity, Greer says he was a renaissance man who excelled in science, art, architecture and physiology.

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