He was born on July 18, 1635, at Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight, the son of a churchman. He was apparently largely educated at home by his father, although he also served an apprenticeship to an artist. He was able to enter Westminster School at the age of thirteen, and from there went to Oxford, where some of the best scientists in England were working at the time. Hooke impressed them with his skills at designing experiments and building equipment, and soon became an assistant to the chemist Robert Boyle. In 1662 Hooke was named Curator of Experiments of the newly formed Royal Society of London -- meaning that he was responsible for demonstrating new experiments at the Society`s weekly meetings. He later became Gresham Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, where he had a set of rooms and where he lived for the rest of his life. His health deteriorated over the last decade of his life, although one of his biographers wrote that "He was of an active, restless, indefatigable Genius even almost to the last." He died in London on March 3, 1703.
Hooke`s reputation in the history of biology largely rests on his book Micrographia, published in 1665. Hooke devised the compound microscope and illumination system shown above, one of the best such microscopes of his time, and used it in his demonstrations at the Royal Societys meetings. With it he observed organisms as diverse as insects, sponges, bryozoans, foraminifera, and bird feathers. Micrographia was an accurate and detailed record of his observations, illustrated with magnificent drawings, such as the flea shown below, which Hooke described as "adornd with a curiously polish`d suite of sable Armour, neatly jointed. . ." It was a best-seller of its day. Some readers ridiculed Hooke for paying attention to such trifling pursuits: a satirist of the time poked fun at him as "a Sot, that has spent 2000 £ in Microscopes, to find out the nature of Eels in Vinegar, Mites in Cheese, and the Blue of Plums which he has subtly found out to be living creatures." More complimentary was the reaction of the diarist and government official Samuel Pepys, who stayed up till 2:00 AM one night reading Micrographia, which he called "the most ingenious book that I ever read in my life."