cover image Out of the Shadow of a Giant: Hooke, Halley and the Birth of Science

Out of the Shadow of a Giant: Hooke, Halley and the Birth of Science

John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin. Yale Univ., $32.50 (328p) ISBN 978-0-300-22675-1

The married Gribbin team (The Cat in the Box), visiting fellows at the University of Sussex, argue forcefully that two of Isaac Newton’s contemporaries, Robert Hooke (1635–1703) and Edmund Halley (1656–1742), have not been fully recognized for the importance of their contributions to science. Hooke receives pride of place here, and the Gribbins are at pains to establish the primacy of many of Hooke’s ideas over those of others, noting that his concept of gravity predated and was likely poached by the “serial plagiarist” Newton. Hooke’s other efforts include being a close collaborator with Robert Boyle; authoring the “first scientific bestseller,” Micrographia, which centered on his observations via microscope; and thoughts on geology and fossils that presage Darwin and modern conceptions of the Earth. He also served the Royal Society in various capacities while also providing much of the surveying and architectural work following the London Fire of 1666. Halley is well known for his prediction of the comet named for him, but the Gribbins remind readers that he was also responsible for shepherding Newton’s Principia into existence and that he captained several scientific voyages for the admiralty. Science readers will thank the Gribbins for restoring Hooke and Halley to the prominence that they deserve. Illus. (Oct.)